Having already committed some $20 billion in federal tax money to road and bridge projects, Congress may sign up for a further $28 billion, all in the name of economic stimulus. Given what The Associated Press found when it looked at first-round projects, Congress should bank the money and move on.
An important part of the first federal stimulus package, road and bridge projects were supposed to improve aging infrastructure and help bring jobs to the construction industry. They were a relatively small part of the total $787 billion package, but an important part, nonetheless.
But, the AP found, even in Oregon the money has done nothing to improve the employment picture for the construction trades. In fact, while nearly $60 for every man, woman and child in this state has gone to stimulus road and bridge projects, the construction industry actually lost 7 percent of its jobs here during the same period. In fact, the AP could make almost no connection between stimulus construction projects and the number of construction workers hired or fired since the program began.
Why, then, would Congress be willing to commit even more money to such projects?
As for the rest of the first stimulus package, it contained so many elements that most experts believe it is impossible to say specifically what has helped, if anything has. That's both a reason for caution and, for those so inclined, an incentive for more spending. Congress seems poised to do the latter. The Jobs for Main Street Act, all $174 billion of it, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in December. While the Senate may well write legislation of its own, there's plenty of clamor, including from Oregon's two Democratic senators, to come up with some sort of additional spending package.
Yet caution surely is called for. With a huge health care bill on the horizon and another $787 billion in stimulus already approved, the bills are mounting. Our children will thank all of us if Congress can restrain itself, at least this little bit, and not add further to the whopping debt we're handing them.
- Wescom Wire (Bend Bulletin)