Surprise: Stimulus not stimulating construction industry, infrastructure repair

We begin this morning where we left off last night, with the best laid plans of a top-down economy going predictably awry. The One sure does make blogging easy sometimes.


In fairness, the stimulus isn’t stimulating much of anything these days, but since American infrastructure renewal was a key theme of Obama’s recovery song-and-dance back in February, it’s worth paying extra attention to the bust in this area. First WaPo:

President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan is having little effect on job creation within the general-construction industry, the trade association for the sector said Thursday.

Construction spending was “disappointingly slow” five months into the recovery program, with firms working on stimulus-funded construction projects hiring at no greater rates than those without such work, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, known as AGC…

While few new jobs were reported, 60 percent of firms surveyed by the AGC said they had saved jobs because of the stimulus package, which the AGC estimates is worth $135 billion in construction contracts.

And now the AP, in a report that takes surprising pleasure in reminding The One of how central infrastructure was to his stimulus sales pitch:


A few states, such as Virginia and South Carolina, are targeting their troubled bridges. In all, 1,286 deficient or obsolete bridges are expected to share $2.2 billion in stimulus money for repairs, the AP analysis shows.

But that’s less than 1 percent of the more than 150,000 bridges nationwide that engineers have labeled deficient or obsolete. Of those, more than 39,000 are considered the worst, rated poor in at least one structural component and eligible to be replaced with federal money…

This analysis found that:

• Many states did not make bridge work a priority in stimulus spending. More than half plan work on fewer than two dozen bridges and 18 states plan fewer than 10 projects.

• In 24 states, at least half of the bridges being worked on with stimulus money were not deficient.

• In 15 states, at least two-thirds of the bridges receiving stimulus money are not deficient.

Transportation officials said the stimulus program’s mandates – shovel-ready projects that can be finished in three years and create jobs quickly – made it nearly impossible to focus on bad bridges that weren’t already scheduled for repairs.”


Exit question: Per this morning’s report of less-than-expected contraction among GDP in the second quarter, if it’s true that the recession is finally ending and the economy starts expanding (however sluggishly) next year, will voters really care about stimulus waste during the midterms? The relief that the tide is turning will be so great, I think, that they’ll be willing to forgive The One virtually any Keynesian mistake. There’s a lesson in that for the GOP, too: Since the economy and unemployment are bound to turn around sooner or later, it pays to start shifting their message now from “where are the jobs?” to “how much of our money have you blown?” You can still argue the latter after the recession ends, but obviously not the former.

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