Gibson ARRA "a good start," eyes reauthorization of transportation bill

Oct 01, 2009 | 09:04 AM |

Even if it's too early to say the recession has completely ended for the United States, there's a growing consensus among economists that we're past the bottom of the trough. There's also general agreement that the whopping $787-billion stimulus package, known formally as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), has not done what it was supposed to do get the economy moving.

While certain statistics may signal a waning recession, average Americans are not feeling it. Unemployment remains high at close to 10 percent and home foreclosures continue at a record pace. The unemployment rate doesn't include the 3.7-million-plus people who are reluctantly working only part time because of the poor labor market, and it doesn't include the workers who have given up scouring want ads for seemingly nonexistent jobs. When those people are added to the numbers, the real unemployment rate rises to 15.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly seven months after the economic stimulus package was passed, only about 12 percent of the spending portion of the $787-billion package—$288 billion is tax cuts—has been given out. The limited capacity of government to swiftly push stimulus funds into the economy has contributed to a backlash in public support for health-care reform, with its estimated $1.3-trillion price tag.

A central problem, which the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) leadership indicated at the time the details of the stimulus package were being developed, is that too small a portion of it was dedicated to infrastructure projects, the type of contracts that directly generate jobs while making much-needed improvements to America's transportation system. Funds directed to education or social programs do not serve to stimulate the economy, yet a significant portion of the dollars spent thus far have gone to those types of projects, including child care and food stamps.....

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