In the fall of 2007, when the U.S. economy first seemed in peril, I began answering reader queries here on the Business Desk. I still do so, but this page has expanded to include posts from eminent economists, "far-flung correspondents," and a variety of voices that have intriguing and/or useful things to say about economics, broadly defined. Please feel encouraged to respond to any and all of them.
Why Doesn't the Govt. Sponsor Jobs Programs Like Those During the Depression?
City & State:
Question: Why doesn't the government sponsor jobs programs similar to those by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, such as rebuilding infrastructure, building new energy grids, alternative transportation, a decent bus system or train system?
Paul Solman: But that's what the Obama Administration says it is TRYING to do, no? "Shovel-ready" projects, they've been called: infrastructure investments that have passed all the necessary tests (environmental, for example) and are ready to roll. We chronicled the ambition last December.
But in the same piece, economist Ed Yardeni pointed out some of the possible pitfalls and let me tell you something: It's not so easy to spend massively, quickly, AND efficiently on infrastructure, it turns out. I was told just the other day about a contractor in Florida -- from an impeccable source, deep off-the-record. The contractor had his employees doing busy work on a federally funded infrastructure project in order to spend the allocated money FAST ENOUGH.
Meanwhile, with Republicans seizing on the rising debt taken on to PAY for the new projects as a clear and future danger, the public has become skeptical of government spending.