Public Works Projects

by Marcia Clemmitt, February 20, 2009

Do they stimulate the economy more than tax cuts?

To battle the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put millions of unemployed Americans to work on New Deal projects such as repairing roads and building cabins in national parks. To stimulate today’s ailing economy, Congress has enacted a $787 billion package that includes tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, including expanding highway and rail systems and weatherizing buildings. But many conservatives argue that government spending does not create jobs and merely diverts money from the private sector, which they call the only true engine of job creation. Meanwhile, infrastructure experts worry that if federal public-works dollars are spent too quickly, the money will go to eco-unfriendly projects, such as additional highway lanes that encourage fossil-fuel use and suburban sprawl, rather than to more future-oriented “green” initiatives like expanding rail and public transit and upgrading the electrical grid to accommodate alternative power sources.

* Will federal spending on public works create jobs?
* Does infrastructure construction strengthen the economy?
* Is the Democratic public-works spending plan too big?

For a more in-depth summary, see the Overview of this week’s report.
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