Thinking Small

| Mon Oct. 11, 2010 12:37 PM EDT

Infrastructure is the word of the day:

President Obama called on lawmakers Monday to back an ambitious initiative to modernize the nation's crumbling roads, railways and airports, saying the strategy would not only improve the economy in the long run but create good jobs now.

....The Rose Garden statement capped a series of White House activities intended to highlight Obama's infrastructure initiative, unveiled a month ago as the White House came under increasing pressure to address unemployment before the Nov. 2 congressional elections. The proposal would create an infrastructure bank to prioritize projects of national importance and fund it with $50 billion generated by eliminating certain tax benefits for oil and gas companies.

Well, I'm all for this, but the effect would be so minuscule that it's hard to get really excited about it. It's fully funded, so it doesn't really provide much in the way of stimulus. It works out to $8 billion per year, so it would have only a small effect on construction employment. And, as Annie Lowrey says, "Congress has proved intransigent." So it's unlikely to ever see the light of day.

We're just stuck. It seems likely that the Fed is going to provide some additional quantitative easing in the near future, which will probably be helpful, but it would sure be a lot more helpful if it were matched by something serious on the fiscal side. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be good for Republican electoral chances, so it's not going to happen. Welcome to 1937.