Pawtucket, RI, is just north of Providence. Pawtucket (pronounced “p-tuket” to those in the know) is an old mill town which has huge economic problems (as does the entire State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations). So what should the federal government do to help Pawtucket in this worst economy “since the Great Depression”? Build a skateboard park:

In this city burdened with one of Rhode Island’s highest home foreclosure rates and a $10-million current-year budget deficit, $550,000 in federal stimulus money is coming to build a skateboarding park and renovate tennis and basketball courts at Jenks Junior High School….

Cassidy said the stimulus will allow Pawtucket to forge ahead with more work than expected over the summer, giving jobs to construction workers. He estimated 30 to 40 workers on the projects, which includes subcontractors the contractor hires. He predicted a ripple effect: those working on the projects will buy lunch at local eateries and have their cars repaired at local service stations, and the contractor will buy materials, from lumber to basketball nets and fencing….

“I can only spend this money” on Community Development grant projects, Cassidy said, “I can’t use it to pay for police or fire.” Pawtucket, which for the budget year ending June 30 is facing a projected $5.2-million school budget deficit and about a $4.8- million hole on the municipal side, has cut about 40 city jobs this year.

$550,000 for 30-40 short term jobs, some lunches purchased by those workers, and possible car repairs? What makes anyone think a worker on a temporary construction project will get his car fixed in Pawtucket? Or won’t bring lunch with him? It is this type of strained logic which demonstrates how the Obama administration doesn’t understand that temporary construction jobs are a road to nowhere.

And what happens when the construction goes over budget, as it inevitably does in Rhode Island? Will the federal government kick in more money, or will Pawtucket get stuck with the bill from its already deficit-ridden budget?

Better idea. Give Pawtucket the money with the provision that Pawtucket reduce taxes on businesses by an equivalent amount; or require Pawtucket to use the money to create a credit which local businesses can use for expansion or permanent hiring of new employees. Why not invest in the private sector to create long terms jobs, not a summer make-work project which has been sitting on the shelf because the government of Pawtucket doesn’t want to pay for the project itself?