President-elect Barack Obama says he is planning the largest public-works program since the 1950s construction of interstate highways. He also plans to use stimulus funds to repair schools, expand broadband Internet access and put energy-efficient technologies in public buildings.
For any infrastructure investment to succeed as stimulus, nations must ensure people are hired quickly to work to reverse the downturn -- and don't become part of a permanent program. U.S. governors say their states have $136 billion in "shovel ready" projects that are fully planned and simply lack funding.
But critics doubt those claims. Historically, infrastructure projects have proven to fall behind schedule and over budget. Boston's Big Dig highway project started out in the 1980s as a $3 billion effort but topped $15 billion two decades later.
Lawmakers and a variety of interest groups are already grasping for the government cash. Last month, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, noting New Deal programs that funded zoos decades ago, made a plea for its "shovel-ready" zoo and aquarium projects to be eligible for federal stimulus funding.Inflation has quickly disappeared as a concern around the world. It's likely to reappear once growth perks up.