From the Times Newsweekly:
Does anyone in the neighborhood feel stimulated?
At this time last year, President Barack Obama signed into law a $787 billion stimulus package designed, in part, to create or save millions of jobs across the country. The country was told that the Great Recession would turn into a full-blown depression without such a package.
A large portion of the money was used to save government jobs and social services. Most of the jobs supported by stimulus spending belonged to public employees at the state and local level, including about 325,000 teachers and school staff.
Other than tax credits, there was little aid provided to businesses to bring about a substantial hiring of people in the private sector. Evidence of the lack of job creation can be found in this newspaper or any other publication or Internet classified, none of which seem to be overflowing with help wanted ads.
The stimulus package, instead, extended unemployment benefits and programs like food stamps for the neediest Americans. Those receiving Social Security payments were provided with a one-time bonus of $250. Payroll taxes for middle class workers were also decreased ever so slightly.
As for infrastructure improvements, the stimulus package was to provide money for hundreds of “shovel-ready” jobs across the United States. Yet few seem to get a shovel in the ground, as a number of projects are caught up in red tape and/or union scuffles.
If Americans want to know what a real stimulus package looks like, they should open up the history books and read about the Works Progress Administration (WPA) that helped bring the country out of the Great Depression.
The brainchild of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, WPA was a controversial program. Some thought it was like socialism, others felt it put the country in debt and others still thought it would be just as effective to give money to people and expand welfare payments. Sound familiar?
For all the hemming and hawing in that era, history would show that, in the eight years the WPA operated, nearly onefourth of all families in the U.S. were dependent on wages provided through WPA projects.
The WPA built or improved 651,000 miles of roads, 19,700 miles of water mains, 500 water treatment plants, 24,000 miles of sidewalks, 12,800 playgrounds, 24,000 miles of storm and sewer lines, 1,200 airport buildings, 226 hospitals and more than 5,900 schools.
New York City got things like the RFK (Triborough) Bridge and LaGuardia Airport through the WPA. Nearly every American community benefited in some way from WPA projects with a new park, bridge or school.
What do we have to show for $787 billion in spending last year? So far, not much, as there are still tens of millions of Americans out of work or underemployed, and there are scores of needed infrastructure projects yet to be started.
When it comes to increasing employment for the middle class workers of America, it seems that the present administration seems able to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.
Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr. President.