Shovel ready, revisited

Posted on July 3, 2010

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“According to Recovery.gov, the government has now paid out $415 billion of the stimulus funds. Tax rebates account for $163 billion. Of the $252 of direct spending, the Department of Transportation has paid out $14 billion. That’s 5.5%.

Maybe it would have done more stimulating if the spending had actually been directed at projects that use shovels.

But if you’re a Keynesian, spending is spending. It’s all part of aggregate demand. Keynesians believe it’s better to do something productive with the spending but even digging ditches and filling them back in boosts aggregate demand.

Googling to find out how much money was supposed to be spent each year in the stimulus legislation brought up Iowa State University’s accounting of their stimulus funds:

About 70 percent of the $31.6 million in education federal stimulus funds awarded to Iowa State this fiscal year will be used for personnel expenses, including about $10.6 million that is paying salaries and benefits for employees whose positions are expected to continue — on another revenue source — after June 30.

Companion amounts — $5.9 million and $5.8 million, respectively — will be used to pay employees participating in the first retirement incentive option and those whose positions will be eliminated by June 30.

The figures reflect university plans for the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds as of Feb. 15, and change as expenditures are completed. As of this week, units actually have spent nearly $15.1 million. By June 30, the ARRA funds must be either spent or committed to an expense with a firm timeline to be spent.

As planned, the university also will spend about $8.1 million of federal stimulus funds on other one-time projects, including $2.2 million for classroom improvements, $1.6 million for research equipment, $1.8 million for bridge funding for regular programming (for example, in Extension 4-H, Study Abroad Center, Honors Program, university marketing), $993,000 for IT upgrades and $750,000 for faculty start-up costs.

As planned, the university also will spend about $8.1 million of federal stimulus funds on other one-time projects, including $2.2 million for classroom improvements, $1.6 million for research equipment, $1.8 million for bridge funding for regular programming (for example, in Extension 4-H, Study Abroad Center, Honors Program, university marketing), $993,000 for IT upgrades and $750,000 for faculty start-up costs.

Why would anyone expect this kind of spending to create many jobs for people who are unemployed? I don’t get it.”

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