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Did Stimulus Fund Short Term Fixes, or Long Term Infrastructure?

Blair Kamin 19 February 2010 No Comment

In a bid to preserve or create much-needed jobs, most of the stimulus spending for infrastructure is pushing short-term fixes, like repaved roads. Such projects have undeniable added value, allowing traffic to flow more smoothly and preventing crater-sized potholes from blowing out tires. Yet the roads will simply have to be repaved a few years down the line. In the long run, whether the stimulus helps bring down unemployment or not, little will have changed.

“Few of the [stimulus] projects are transformative,” said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University.

Not all of them were supposed to be, of course. Given the economic crisis that attended the passage of the stimulus package, tensions were bound to surface between putting people back to work quickly and building a lasting framework of public works. The construction of such a framework was always one of the animating ideas behind the package, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

With congressional Democrats crafting the measure, it funded a grab bag of tax cuts, jobless benefits and other measures. Infrastructure is just one piece of the sprawling piece of legislation and by no means the biggest one. The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the bill’s infrastructure spending at $71.8 billion, or less than one-tenth of the package. And, as a look at Obama’s home state of Illinois reveals, much of the money being spent is simply fixing existing infrastructure rather than building a new framework.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

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