North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti is a willing witness for the 2009 federal stimulus and its job-creation results.
Secretary Conti said on my Exclusive program in November the state used $700 million on transportation projects that infused the state’s economy with 30,000 jobs. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that almost 3 million jobs were created or saved nationwide.
Still, there is an impression that the stimulus hardly budged the then spreading Great Recession. Republican presidential candidates such as Texas Governor Rick Perry exploited this mistaken attitude by claiming not one job had been created by the stimulus. He was wrong and now he is gone from the race.
But the impression lingers and an investigative reporter, Michael Grabell, at ProPublica explained “why” in an article titled “How Not to Revive an Economy.” ProPublica is an amazing, independent, non-profit, news group based in New York City. It covers stories in the public interest and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010.
The article confirms that the stimulus did good and cites even conservative economists who agree. But the reporter found that the stimulus’ impact was “spread far and wide” and despite its intent, did not finance enough ready-to-go construction projects. Nationally, these “shovel-ready” jobs were slow in starting and sometimes shoddy in hurried execution.
The reporter also writes that “there were and are, shovel-ready projects. The Administration just needs to find them.”
They did find them here in North Carolina and elsewhere such as the nuclear cleanup at the Savannah River site in South Carolina, which put thousands of people to work by summer’s end.
I found some, too, at the non-profit Rural Center that had dozens of small projects, some already underway, that could have put the money into jobs quickly.
The start-up requirement in the stimulus act was also lengthened from 90 days to 120, slowing an immediate impact.
Some states simply didn’t take money that was available for WPA type jobs. The reporter believes there should have been more such jobs that can put thousands to work in a short time, through federal administration if necessary.
President Obama’s current budget proposal calls for $50 billion in job stimulus money. Even if Congressional Republicans kill the budget bill, they should save the jobs bill. They, the Democrats and Mr. Obama can learn from the lessons of the 2009 stimulus and put the $50 billion to work putting people to work. Quickly.