Stimulus or bust?
In September, President Obama proposed billions of dollars in new spending on the nation’s infrastructure as part of an effort to create more jobs. The plan would rebuild 150,000 miles of road, construct and maintain 4,000 miles of railways and rehabilitate 150 miles of airport runways. “I want America to have the best infrastructure in the world,” Obama told a crowd in Milwaukee. “We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again.”
American City and County asked the readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter if Obama’s proposed infrastructure spending would help local and state governments and also stimulate the economy. Below are some of the responses.
“Just ask yourself this: Who is out of work (demographically)? How many of them will end up on road crews, or design teams, or working for any employer related to construction? I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off allowing tax credits for all business hires, especially in industries where outsourcing has taken place, or where we need to sustain an existing manufacturing effort. Why not allow banks to write down their mortgage principal balances to market levels and call it a deduction against income? Increased profits: Yup. More money to lend? Yup (a condition of the tax break [that would be] easy to measure). Turn loose some money going to overheated mortgages. After all, we’re supposed to be consumers and service providers now, not manufacturers or builders. We don’t do ‘value added’ much any more, [but the] question is, should we?
The middle class is being leveled here, and raised elsewhere; there will be a balance somewhere among nations. The ‘bubble’ was not just the housing bust. The real bubble was post WWII when we were the only economy left standing on earth that could make demands on others to supply us. We have a depression-era mentality for this recessionary recovery. It may not be pushing money at something, so much as creating incentives to release (or draw in) money.
— Robert Baggs, development services administrator, Las Vegas Valley Water District
“Yes, state and local governments will benefit from another stimulus, as there is much to do and too few resources. It may be lamentable that to at least start to address the mismatch of needs and revenue, one-time infusions are the replacement for better-calibrated user fees. But, legislators remain tax phobic at this time. In addition to the short-term lifeline stimulus to the too-important-to-fail construction industry, there are long-term economic benefits from infrastructure investment. This year’s stimulus is appropriate, and so is next year’s and every year after that until state and federal legislators take meaningful action to preserve and improve this country’s infrastructure through adequate operating funding.”
— Dan Collen, deputy director for infrastructure development, Santa Clara County, Calif.
“This is long overdue. [It was] squeezed out of the original stimulus bill. The $50 billion should have been part of original [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] (ARRA) TIGER funding, and the projects submitted for that program should be given top priority for this funding. Those projects were selected by their communities as top priority projects and had the recession-fighting benefit of being ‘shovel ready.’ The money will be spent — and respent — in our economy on wages, materials and equipment. In my county, [the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation] has spent $30 million designing the interchanges needed to link two interstates. Environmental clearances have been obtained and rights-of-way purchased. This project sits on the shelf, waiting for funding. We could put people to work in about 60 days!”
— Jon Eich, commissioner, Centre County, Pa.
“If all the proposed money for this new infrastructure program actually goes to ready-to-bid-and-build projects, unlike the ARRA money, which was woefully misdirected to social services and earmarked pet projects that had no long-term economic stimulus impact, it will help with our still rapidly deteriorating roads, bridges, buildings and airports. But, as a stimulant to the U.S. economy [and] the now jobless recovery that is seemingly under way, and repayment of TARP money by financial institutions, [it] will likely do little or nothing to reduce the long-term unemployment rates and not create [jobs, and do] little to help the overall economy to rebound and return to the robust days of the Clinton era.”
— Jay Gsell, county manager, Genesee County, N.Y.
“This is another attempt by Obama to save his failed leadership and programs. The stimulus was a joke and a fraud. This new ‘proposal’ will be more of the same. We at the bottom of the list (towns and counties) received nothing. We were told projects had to be ready within 90 days of the release of the stimulus money. We were ready and never saw a penny. In March, we were told there was a ‘great deal’ of stimulus money. In May, we were told the stimulus money was gone. Then we found out it went to pave runways at small local airports so that U.S. senators could fly in closer to their homes. What happened to infrastructure? None of the stimulus money created jobs. The companies that performed the work kept the same number of old employees for the new projects. Also, the stimulus money went to payoff Obama’s big labor union boss supporters.”
— Brian Napoli, supervisor, Ridgeway, N.Y.