Introducing a new feature on the Huffington Post: It is widely established, both by our own research and by that of outside analysts, that the Recovery Act has been instrumental in bringing the economy back from the edge of an economic cliff. These points are necessarily made in terms of GDP growth, job growth against a baseline (or "counterfactual") of what would have happened if the Act wasn't passed, rates of spend-out, and other pretty arcane measures and metrics.
What's missing from this picture is tangible, granular information about how the Act is actually playing out in the economic lives of people and their communities. In order to fill that gap, I'm going to post a regular column based on how a Recovery Act project is unfolding somewhere in America. Here's my first shot at it:
I. "Talk to Chuck"
On the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Recovery Act, President Obama and Vice-President Biden spoke about the progress of the Act so far, and what's left to come. Joining them onstage was one Charles Niederriter, aka Chuck, who runs the Golden Triangle Construction Company in Imperial, PA.
Chuck's company paves roads, lays concrete, builds bridges and installs pipes. Like so many construction firms, they got whacked hard by the downturn, and had to lay some folks off.
This year, however, Recovery Act infrastructure funds will support about a third of the work of Chuck's firm. This new work has allowed him to hire about a hundred employees, including re-hiring some of the folks laid off last year.
These jobs are direct hires attributable to Recovery Act funds. But you've maybe heard us Keynesian types talk about multiplier effects. That's what occurs when spending in one place sets off spending in other places, causing an economic ripple effect. Well, in order to meet the demands of these new contracts, Chuck's firm ordered new paving equipment from a California firm, saving an additional 40 jobs on an assembly line out there.
I spoke to Chuck about all this. He told me about the different jobs created by the stimulus funds, for equipment operators, cement masons, carpenters, laborers -- all union jobs paid at prevailing wages -- and a couple of "young engineers." As regards infrastructure investment, here's what he told me: "This is such a no brainer. You want to fix a problem and you want to get people working."
Back here in Beltway Land, there's a ton of noise around this issue of the jobs created by the Recovery Act. One Senator recently claimed that not one job had been created, despite reams of evidence to the contrary, including that of the independent Congressional Budget Office which finds the Act has saved or created as many as 2.4 million jobs so far (for a good review of the evidence, see this).
Despite the consensus evidence, partisans will argue about such statistical studies all day, so I'll go with the president, who put it this way last week: "...in case people are wondering whether or not the Recovery Act has created jobs and opportunity for businesses, talk to Chuck."