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Infrastructure

A major stimulus packages for the nation’s ailing economy begins to seem like an inevitability and all arguments against it will be quickly brushed aside.  That seems about right, as I’ve pointed out in the past, because government spending is the only long-term form of capital that has ever sustained us in our greatest financial crisises in the past.  Robert Reich does a great job of explaining the reasons for a sustained stimulus package that includes more than the clumsy rebate checks of the Bush Years.

I don’t know what the Obama team has in mind, but the word on everyone’s lips is “infrastructure.”  Since building roads and bridges (or repairing the ones we have) helps make commerce happen more efficiently in addition to creating jobs, this does seem like the best place to start.

But if I may, those of us in New York need to remind ourselves of a big infrastructure initiative in our recent past that deserves a second look: Wire New York.  Between our ill-fated Governor Spitzer and the economic troubles we have, this one kind of got brushed under the rug.  Obviously, with New York’s huge debt problems, this isn’t an initiative that can be picked up again all by our lonesomes.  But it is something that should be taken to the Obama team and presented as a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure – as important as roads and bridges in our modern economy.

It could mean the difference between rural workers without jobs and rural workers answering phones for Gateway.  It may not be the best job, but it pays the bills.  It paid mine at one time.

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Someone Else’s Money

Governors and Mayors of various cities and states across the U.S. are testifying before Congress on the need or lack thereof for a stimulus package to help aid the struggling governments.  In particular, our own Governor Patterson is testifying along with Republican governor Sanford of North Carolina.  I couldn’t help noticing this:

The New York governor reiterated statements he made Tuesday: that his state faces a $47 billion deficit by 2012 because of overspending, the Wall Street meltdown and the recession. He repeated his projection that 160,000 New Yorkers will lose their jobs as a result of the recent downturn.

. . . .

Rangel and other committee members grilled Sanford for opposing a federal stimulus package, saying that the economy needs a federal cash injection. But Sanford said that states and municipalities should take responsibility for their own financial affairs, making budget cuts instead of relying on federal support.

“Its always easier to spend somebody else’s money,” said Sanford.

Ah, indeed.  Someone else’s money.  So, here’s a question: how much federal tax money – originating from New York on Wall Street – was used to clean up how many hurricanes in North Carolina?  Just asking.

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How to Avoid a Depression: Spend Money

Dean Baker decided to comment on this article, which was sent to me yesterday, so I figure I will as well.

Thomas Edsall asks the question in the Huffington Post: should Barack Obama fess up and say he can’t do the things he wants to or should he just be quiet and win the election?  The implication being that Barack Obama has been promising everyone their own theme ride at Disney World, but that the growing economic crisis may not allow him to give this stuff away.

Here’s a question for Thomas Edsall: when the government spends money, does it just fly up into the air – dissolving into ether, ne’er to return again?  Here’s another question for Thomas Edsall: what were the Alphabet Agencies during the Great Depression and what did they do?

The answer to the first question is no, money spent by the government does not disappear.  It goes into the economy in the form of pure, liquid cash.  The very thing that the financial markets lack at the moment.  For an avowed liberal writing for a progressive website to advocate cutting programs – proposed or otherwise – in the face of an economic crisis is for a liberal to completely lose his morings in American history.

To whit, the Alphabet Agencies of the Great Depression.  They spent money like it was going out of style and ran up deficits to boot.  They built the Hoover Dam and brought electricity to the Tennesee Valley, cleaned up parks and replaced lights on street lamps, spending money the whole time.  And had it not been for that massive injection of government money, we might have been another decade in the Depression besides.

Barack Obama wants to provide every citizen health care, make it easier for them to go to college and foster volunteerism by revitalizing the Americorp.  I can hardly think of better programs to go full-steam ahead with than these if we’re to quickly rebuild after this most serious of downturns. . .  possibly another Depression.