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Obama's New Stimulus: $300 Billion for Roads, Factories, Labs... and Jobs

President Obama is asking Congress to throw $300-billion at the economy with a series of business tax breaks and infrastructure investments. His plan would allot $50-billion to repair roads, bridges, rail lines and runways. It would make the R&D tax credit permanent. (It's already a popular perennial.) And it would allow businesses to immediately deduct ALL of the money they invest in plants and equipment through 2011.

Administration officials have gone out of their way to say that the package is not a second stimulus, by which they mean there's no money in there for everyday taxpayers. So what's in it for you? Perhaps an easier commute, a few years down the road. In the meantime, here are some other considerations.

  • Expect a free-for-all in Washington. Congress actually has to pass Obama's wish list before it could take effect, and so far there's been no big effort to give him his way. A separate bill aimed at easing credit for small businesses has been sitting in the Senate for months. Some on the Republican side don't want to pass any targeted tax cuts because they want to save their powder (and money) for a full extension of the Bush era income-tax cuts, slated to end at the end of this year. The Obama Administration has proposed allowing those cuts to expire for the nation's highest earners. Oh, and Congress is only going to be in session from mid-September through the first week in October, when it leaves to campaign. So it's entirely possible that many of these measures will be passed by a lame duck Congress, if at all.
  • You're not getting any more money. In fact, your paycheck may shrink. Those various instant-rebate stimulus payments that were in effect in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are over. So are the consumer tax breaks for home buying and car purchases. You may want to raise your withholding for 2011.
  • There are worse ways to goose the economy. Maybe infrastructure projects don't fix the economy. People are still arguing about whether President Roosevelt got us out of the depression with his alphabet soup of government spending programs, or if it was World War II spending that did the trick. So maybe this will work, and maybe it won't. But in the meantime, who wouldn't want the U.S. to have more modern factories and laboratories, better roads, high speed trains, and bridges that inspired confidence? Those are things we need anyway if we want to stay competitive internationally. Paying for it all? That's a subject for another blog post, another day.
Photo by Chelseagirl on Flickr.
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