Less stimulating than it should be

Thomas Masterson | September 7, 2010

The Free Exchange blog calls President Obama’s proposed $50 billion infrastructure stimulus “A New Hope.” Our research begs to differ. We find that spending $50 billion on infrastructure would create little more than half a million new jobs. That’s not an inconsiderable number, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 14.9 million who were unemployed in August (according to the last employment situation report).

There are strong arguments to made in favor of infrastructure spending. But if the administration were to spend the same amount on social care (child care, home health care, etc.), the employment gain would be more than twice as great, reaching nearly 1.2 million.Those would be lower paying jobs, but they would go to individuals further down the economic ladder–the people, in other words, most in need of help and most likely to provide further stimulus by promptly spending their earnings.

Perhaps the president’s latest proposal is merely a political trap Obama is setting for the Republicans, giving them yet another opportunity to ostentatiously oppose something popular. If so, good luck. But after the weaker-than-needed stimulus package last year, which is now running out of gas in terms of boosting employment, this proposal won’t provide much additional job growth. Half measures, as the saying goes, avail us naught. And this proposal is much less than half of what is needed.

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