The Brian Lehrer Show

The Stimulus: An End in Sight?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Felix Salmon, finance blogger for Reuters, discusses the announcement that the Federal Reserve will begin winding down stimulus efforts, and what this plan means for interest rates.

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Money Talking

Money Talking: The End of the Stimulus?

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low and taken other measures to stimulate the economy in recent years, but we've always known the extraordinary measures were not going to last forever.


The Takeaway

From the National to the Local: Federal Investment in Urban Policy

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Great Recession of 2007-2008 left many Americans unemployed and in debt, and yet, sociologist Patrick Sharkey notes, city crime rates have hardly changed since the 1970s. Sharkey argues that the the 2009 stimulus package allowed cities to escape many of the problems that plagued urban dwellers in the early 1980, but now that stimulus funding has ebbed, urban areas are in danger of decline. 

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Disaster Inc: Some Companies Win Big Post-Sandy

Tuesday, January 29, 2013



The Leonard Lopate Show

Japan's Economy and Fiscal Stimulus

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a major stimulus package designed to jolt the county's lagging economy. Journalist Eamonn Fingleton and Financial Times U.S. economics editor Robin Harding examine the health of the world's third-largest economy, and the recent pledge by the Bank of Japan to buy bonds in potentially unlimited quantities with .


Transportation Nation

Did This RNC Speaker Just Demand More Stimulus So He Could 'Build That'?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

At least until Rick Santorum’s soliloquy on hands, it was the strangest moment of the Republican National Convention Tuesday night: a small businessman from New Mexico stood at the podium and said—in remarks that were obviously vetted if not written by RNC organizers—that the Obama Administration had let him down... by not spending more money on his road signs.

The theme of the night—written on the walls and backdrops and hand-lettered signs, and laced through nearly every speech—was “We Built It,” an insistent jab at an Obama quote, “You didn’t build that,” which opponents heard as an insult to American ingenuity and bootstrappiness. The President doesn’t think people build their own businesses, the Republicans say, because he thinks the Government builds everything.

His comments, for those who haven't read them a dozen times, were: "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen."

The President, and Democrats like Mass. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren, make the point with more nuance: businesses big and small are built by people— call them business-builders if you like—who themselves rely on things we can only build together as a society, like roads, schools and police departments.

But one doesn’t need to hunt for nuance to hear the RNC speaker, Phil Archuletta, saying that the government quite literally keeps his business alive, or that he’s quite upset that there wasn’t more federal largesse flowing his way. “When President Obama came on board and pushed the stimulus,” he told the convention Tuesday, "I believed my business was going to explode with work. Unfortunately, it never happened."  (His complete remarks are below.)

Today, liberal bloggers have fleshed out the details. The Huffington Post pointed out that “Archuletta saw over $340,000 in federal contracts under Obama in 2010, which makes up nearly half of the $800,000 he’s received in federal dollars over the past 10 years,” and Mother Jones reported that “Through the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency, Archuleta secured an $850,000 Small Business Administration loan guarantee to build an 11,700-square-foot building for his company.”

No word yet on whether Archuletta will be invited to speak at the Democratic Convention, where perhaps he would have been a better fit.

Here are Mr. Archuletta’s full prepared remarks:

Phil Archuletta: Thank you, Governor.  And thank you, Tampa! My story is the story of many Americans, just like Governor Sandoval's. From humble beginnings, I built a successful business. But today my business is at risk because of the Obama administration. For the last 40 years, my company has built the road signs on the Forest Service road system.  In fact, in 1984, I was fortunate to receive the national award from President Reagan for being the most successful minority business in the United States. In 2004, President Bush made it possible for our company to manufacture signs for all federal agencies. When President Obama came on board and pushed the stimulus, I believed my business was going to explode with work. Unfortunately, it never happened. The Democratic Congress and the Obama administration created a new procurement process that harmed existing small business contracts, which devastated my business. I pleaded for help from my Congressman and Senators — all Democrats — and meetings were arranged with the Forest Service.  They all listened carefully, they made promises, but nothing happened. Today, we are barely hanging on with the orders from the state of New Mexico — thanks to Governor Susana Martinez — and the few orders still coming through the Forest Service from our very loyal customers. I have heard the same story from other small businesses from all over the country.President Obama talks like he supports small businesses, but his actions are destroying us.  His administration is putting us out of business. It is our turn to put them out of office! Thank you.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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The Takeaway

'The New New Deal': The Rare Pro-Stimulus Argument

Thursday, August 16, 2012

As President Obama campaigns for reelection, as he delivers speech after speech in swing states from Ohio to Florida, there's one word that’s completely off-limits. The word-which-must-not be named? "Stimulus."

Comments [6]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Stimulus Money Well Spent?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Michael Grabell, who covers transportation for ProPublica and is the author of Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History follows up on his ShovelWatch reporting with a book about the stimulus plan and what it accomplished.

Comments [31]


Stimulus Dollars Protected Classrooms: Fed Study

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New York and New Jersey were able to avoid big cuts to instruction in their public schools thanks to the U.S. government's stimulus spending, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Mica Not Interested in Obama's Infrastructure Play

Friday, September 09, 2011

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (Getty Images)

(Washington, DC) President Obama may be ratcheting up the pressure on Congress to pass his jobs plan, but the House's Republican transportation gate-keeper doesn't seem terribly interested in playing along.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-Fla.) tossed cold water on Obama's call for a national infrastructure bank Thursday night, just minutes after the president told Congress to put partisanship aside and pass his plan quickly.

"We've already had experience with some of these federal grant programs that requires Washington bureaucrats, Washington red tape, Washington approvals and then bowing and scraping to Washington. I'm strongly opposed to any type of a new federal infrastructure bank," Mica said in an interview following the speech.

The White House's vision for the bank includes $10 billion in "seed money" and an independent board to attract private capital to infrastructure projects. The point, of course, is the get the projects going and get workers digging without the taint of big government spending projects now out of favor. It's all part of an overall $50 billion infrastructure proposal in the estimated $447 billion American Jobs Act proposed by Obama last night.

Instead, Mica said he'd be willing to toss some money at the states and de-couple it from federal infrastructure rules. "We have 33 states that have existing state infrastructure banks. People won't need to come to Washington if we empower those existing state infrastructure banks."

After a bruising and bitter partisan summer fight over debt and deficits House Republican leaders have spent this week stressing their desire to cooperate with the White House on areas where they can agree. That could include payroll tax cuts and hiring incentives for businesses. Republicans and Democrats, mostly in the Senate, support the infrastructure bank model, so there is reason to believe that part of Thursday's plan could attract bipartisan support. But Mica's statements appear to cloud the future of an infrastructure bank.

For Mica, new infrastructure programs in a stand-alone jobs bill could undermine tense House-Senate negotiations over reauthorization of the Highway bill. Mica is locked in a battle with Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) over bills that are separated by years in duration and tens of billions of dollars in funding.

Boxer offered her support for Obama's jobs bill, but that's not to say all Democrats are gung-ho. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the proposal wasn't bold enough

"We need a massive investment program in the future of this country to make us competitive in the world economy, and this bill falls short the same way the original stimulus did. As far as I can calculate, about 12% of this bill will be invested in infrastructure. The last time (with) stimulus it was 7%. Fifty percent or more for tax cuts. It's a formula for continued stagnation," DeFazio said after Obama's speech.

Meanwhile, the White House spent Thursday night and Friday blasting out emails heralding support for the plan from Democrats and some corporate leaders.

All the pessimism on the Hill doesn't mean the infrastructure part of Obama's proposal is dead. Obama asked the 12-member deficit reduction panel known as the "supercommittee" to increase its debt-cutting targets to fully pay for the larger plan. In addition, Congress has to wait until next week  to get the American Jobs Act in legislative form. It'll wait another week for Obama to put forward a promised deficit-reduction package that Democrats say could offer 10-year cuts north of $3 trillion, including changes to Social Security and Medicare.

In that context, $50 billion for infrastructure may well find a place to hide.


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The Brian Lehrer Show

Did It Work? The Stimulus

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roben Farzad, senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, continues his weekly series this month looking at Obama administration economic  programs. This week: the stimulus, shovel ready, and our debt.

Add Your Comments, Listen, and Read a Recap at It's A Free Country

It's A Free Country ®

Did it Work? The Stimulus

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

But again that's kind of a defensive thing, saying it's not as bad as it could have been, and yet we still have 9.1 percent unemployment and the misery index at a high not seen since 1983, so all of this stuff is not quite comforting.

 Roben Farzad, senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek

Comments [16]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Did It Work? The Small Business Lending Fund

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Roben Farzad, a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, begins a weekly series this month looking at Obama administration economic stimulus programs. This week: the Small Business Lending Fund.

Comments [4]

Transportation Nation

Democrats Chase the Transpo Spending Unicorn

Thursday, June 30, 2011

President Barack Obama listens to a question during a press conference in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

(Washington DC) Democrats are holding onto the dream.

The partisan politics that swirl around the much-maligned $787 billion stimulus has all but erased any chance of new transportation infrastructure spending, at least until the economy improves.

But listen to top Democrats—including President Barack Obama—over the last couple of days, and you wouldn’t know that both the Republican party, as well as much of the public, has lost their appetite for such spending.

With talks over raising the federal debt limit and reigning in the deficit at a standstill, Obama took to the White House East Room Wednesday afternoon to push back on what he sees as Republican intransigence. The GOP is sticking to its guns: no tax increases of any kind can be part of a deal on the debt limit.

Obama had plenty to say about that. But he also said that new job spending—you could call it stimulus—should be part of the deal as a way to goose the still-flagging economy.

“I think it’s important for us to look at rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in this country.  That could put people back to work right now -- construction workers back to work right now.  And it would get done work that America needs to get done.  We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports.  We don’t anymore.  And that’s not good for our long-term competitiveness,” the president said.

Obama seemed to suggest that the new spending could be folded in as part of a broader deal to cut the deficit. Such spending has not specifically come up in meetings with Republicans so far, according to aides on Capitol Hill.

But Democrats have enjoyed hammering the GOP lately for ignoring middle-class jobs at the expense of the wealthy. It’s a reliable cudgel, to be sure. And Democrats are now promising that once a debt deal is behind them and all the painful cuts are made, they’ll return with an aggressive jobs plan chock full of transportation wishes.

Witness Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday morning in Washington. Schumer gave a politically charged speech castigating Republicans for trying to hamper Obama by blocking any measures that might help job growth in the short term.

Schumer said Democrats would soon launch a “Jobs First” agenda, designed to speed a drop in the unemployment rates and build long-term economic soundness. Of course, in this toxic atmosphere, it’s also designed to poll-test well with 2012 voters.

Schumer called for:

“A Highway Bill that will put people back to work building critical infrastructure that is necessary to help our economy compete, for example by making it easier to transport manufactured goods from their plant in Ohio to the port in Washington, or Los Angeles or New York.”

and also:

“A National Infrastructure Bank, which both labor and the Chamber of Commerce have strongly supported, and which would create a platform to leverage private sector investment for projects of national or regional significance.”

Of course neither of those items is new on the Democrats’ wish-list. But Obama and Schumer clearly think that pushing for them on the cusp of an election year will play well with prospective voters. For now, they’re clawing for traction against consistent GOP messaging that out-of-control spending is what got the nation into this debt conundrum to begin with.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the GOP leader, took to the Senate floor Thursday with this: “Who really thinks that the answer to a $1.6 trillion deficit is a second Stimulus, that the answer is more deficit spending? Where in the world did that idea come from?”

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The Takeaway

Nation Building at Home: Adding Up the Numbers

Friday, June 24, 2011

President Obama is selling his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan by describing it as an opportunity to refocus on the domestic health of America. His term, "nation building at home" recalls the great American eras like the industrial and gilded ages. They eventually led to new railroads and highways, the infrastructure that powered us into the boom time of the 1950s.


Comments [18]

Transportation Nation

How Much High Speed Rail will $2.4 Billion Buy?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) It should be more fun to give away billions of dollars for rail. One of the happiest things a politician gets to do, after all, is fork over cash for transportation projects. All those gold shovels, ribbon cuttings, and bridge-naming ceremonies! And, one could argue, President Barack Obama and SecretaryRay LaHood should feel triply blessed. With today’s politics being what they are, they get to dole out money more than once!

But there’s something of a deflated mood around the bids that came in this week for the $2.4 billion in High Speed Rail funds that Florida rejected in February. The money seems a little tainted, perhaps, and politically heavy. It’s unseemly to celebrate over such federal largess when Washington is on the verge of a shutdown and budget negotiators are contemplating cutting vital programs. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott, elected as a budget hawks, decided the safe bet was to show restraint and send back big fat slices of transportation pie. By doing so, they left more for everyone else—but they also made the indulgence more fraught. These are hungry times, though, and money won’t sit around long. By Monday, twenty four states, plus Washington D.C. and Amtrak, had bid for pieces of Florida’s pie.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

What the Administration and rail boosters lost in the Florida debacle—a truly high-speed segment with right-of-way secured and private investors in line, that could have been built in the visible future (the next Presidential term, for instance)—will not be gained back by anything proposed Monday. Among the list of projects there is no item that will similarly turn a rail-less corridor into a futuristic proof-of-concept. The speeds mentioned are all easily imaginable by anyone with a decent car. Without a confidence in messaging that has so far eluded the Administration when it comes to transportation, it will be hard to sell this reapportionment as anything earth-shattering, or even (literally)  ground-breaking.

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New York State's Budget Woes Multiply

Friday, November 19, 2010

New York State’s already grim budget picture could be made even worse by some changes at the federal level and the new Congress. The state has at least a $10 billion structural deficit, and the current governor’s budget director predicts that some state services will have to end altogether if trends continue.


Transportation Nation

NY Lawmakers Keep Up Pressure to Get NJ's ARC Money

Friday, November 19, 2010

New York lawmakers continue their push to collect the $3 billion in federal transportation money originally pledged to the now-canceled ARC tunnel project.  Here's the letter requesting New Jersey's forgone funds sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by members of New York's Congressional delegation .

ARC letter from NY Pols

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Transportation Nation

ProPublica: Obama Stimulus Claims "Half True:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obama on 60 Minutes: Photo: 60 Minutes

Propublica fact-checks Obama's 60 Minutes Interview:

Obama says:

"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."

Says ProPublica:

"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts -- at least what is actually known -- when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."

But whether the work is done faster and cheaper than expected, that may not address the concerns of many Americans:  did it create enough jobs?   For Obama's thoughts on that, continue reading.

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The Takeaway

Voters Vent Economic Frustration at the Polls, While Bankers Make the Policies

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Many Americans are angry about the sluggish state of the economy. On Tuesday, they went to the polls and took their anger out on elected officials. But the people who have a very large effect on the American economy aren't elected at all. They’re the appointed officials at the Federal Reserve Bank, headed by Ben Bernanke. As if to underscore that point, The Fed announced Wednesday that they’ll buy $600 billion worth of Treasury bonds, in an effort to stimulate economic growth.