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In St. Louis, Comparing Stimulus Funds to the New Deal

In the first in a series of reports from St. Louis on the Obama administration's first 100 days, Paul Solman tracks where federal stimulus money has been spent and compares today's projects with those funded by the New Deal during the Depression.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now on the NewsHour and online, we begin several days of reporting from and about St. Louis, Missouri, as part of our spotlight city series. We are there to hear what people have to say about the economy and other issues as President Obama marks 100 days in office.

    And we go to Gwen Ifill in St. Louis.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Jim, the president is going to be out here Wednesday, as well, to hear from Missouri residents at a town hall meeting in the St. Louis suburbs. To begin our own look at the situation on the ground, we decided to track where federal stimulus money has been going here.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, looked at how those projects compared with the ones funded by the Depression-era's New Deal. It's another of his attempts to make sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour economics correspondent: Springtime in St. Louis, specifically the local zoo's hoofed mammal exhibit, where the deer and goat–antelope play. Attux is snacking. Others engaged in a mating joust. And a camel named Elvis, who's not in the house, but home on the range, guarding his newly pregnant harem, whose members carry what you might call his investment in the future.

  • ROBERT LEIGHNINGER, author:

    This is a project of the Public Works Administration about 1935.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Historian Bob Leighninger says these exhibits are a human investment in the future made back during the Great Depression in a city that could use another wave of investment today.

    St. Louis was once the fourth-largest city in the country, home to the World's Fair of 1904, birthplace of the zoo. It had more than 800,000 inhabitants by the 1930s.

    The story of its decline is as dreary as it is familiar: a stalled manufacturing sector; shuttered auto plants; exodus to the suburbs.

    BARBARA GEISMAN, deputy mayor for development, St. Louis: We experienced massive disinvestment from 1950 to 2000; 500,000 people left the city, and that was 60 percent of our population.

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