Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lo And Behold, The Stimulus Bill Really Can Stimulate The Economy

Now I know Republicans hate government, especially when it can actually work for the people where private enterprise comes up short. Private business, innovation and entrepreneurship is great, but not all the time, as we can clearly see in this economy. So Barack Obama moved the stimulus bill through Congress, wanting to jump start activity. Republicans screamed and cried the whole way through, claiming that it wouldn't create jobs. Rush Limbaugh subject RNC Chairman Michael Steele said it would create work, but not jobs. Well, it is only March, but thanks to the bill there are people working now thanks to the jobs created to rebuild our infrastructure.

From The NY Times:

There is nothing monumental in President Obama’s plan to revive the economy with a coast-to-coast building spree, no historic New Deal public works. The goal of the stimulus plan was to put people to work quickly, and so states across the country have begun to spend nearly $50 billion on thousands of smaller transportation projects that could employ up to 400,000 people, by the administration’s estimates.

More than a dozen states have now said how they plan to spend at least some of their transportation money, giving the clearest picture yet of how one of the president’s signature programs is playing out around the country. Beyond all the money for Medicaid and unemployment benefits in the huge bill passed last month, this will be the face of the country’s stimulus program: a bridge will be painted on a rural road, a new lane added on a suburban highway, a guardrail built on a median strip.

They may be old plans that the recession had forced a state to shelve, but multiplied by thousands, they will quickly get bulldozers rolling again and paychecks flowing. On the highway projects alone, the White House said Tuesday that 150,000 jobs would be created or saved.
The only problem was that there wasn't enough money to fund all the projects that states wanted to begin on. Obama wanted something quick and he got that, the only trouble was that it got watered down. Now that the construction industry is rehiring workers they let go, it is time to put together a real, comprehensive transportation stimulus package. This past bill had to cover many different segments of the economy but when we really focus on infrastructure, the benefits we'll receive will far outweigh the costs to the treasury.

Instead of another TARP-like bill, we should be spending at least half a trillion solely on transport. Further, roads should only be a small percentage of that. Mass transit must be made a priority as we make the transisition from a petro-economy to a green-economy. The other day I heard someone complaining about the NYC transit system, and rightly so. It is packed and overcrowded and the service stinks. That person's response was a typical one when thinking on the individual a car to have your own space. The only problem with that is the government must spend money to maintain both options and going the 'car' route only makes things worse for us all. Now if we made mass transit more amenable by running more trains, had more routes and cleaned things up a bit, then the complaints would drop as we invested more in the system.

So if that small infusion of cash that we are seeing go to work now makes an impact, imagine what a comprehensive package would do for the country.