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Obama's New Deal is on a smaller scale

Its focus on smaller, shovel-ready projects precludes a grander vision.

(Page 3 of 3)

The sheer philosophical and geographical expanse of the shovel-ready package will be key to its effectiveness, others say.

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“The point is that the recession is so broad-based geographically and across industries, there’s slack out there in the economy,” says Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody’s “Scattershot may be too pejorative, but the plan is to try a bunch of different things with the expectation that some will work better than others.”

Tears of joy for a water system
For the 100-or-so low-income residents of the Lewis & Clark trailer park just east of Missoula, Mont., the economic benefits equal $24 a month. That’s the money each household won’t have to pay to upgrade a 40-year-old water system that leaks so much that the county sends 3 million gallons a month out to a community that only uses 300,000.

Struggling for years with low pressure, sediment in the lines, and frequent shutoffs, some residents had even shed tears as they pleaded with the county commission for help to repair the system.

In a month or so, work will begin on a $600,000 project to replace the old system. “This is going to change our lives,” says Ms. Dougherty. “I am even more energized by the fact that some of this money is going to actually trickle down to small projects like this that need so badly to be completed.”

A few states are planning some New Deal-size projects. New Jersey wants to build a multibillion-dollar Hudson River tunnel to New York, and Virginia intends to extend a commuter-rail line from Washington to Dulles Airport.

Yet, the stimulus money may make a more immediate economic and physical impact in a place like Mound Bayou, Miss., the self-styled “Jewel of the Delta.” Mayor Kennedy Johnson promises to personally pick up the unemployed on the street corners to bring them to work on a $9.8 million repaving of the entire town.

The roads in this town of 2,000 people look like a moonscape. Jobs to repave every inch of the town won’t be unionized, nor will they go to outside contractors, says Mr. Johnson. Currently unemployed townspeople are likely to do much of the work, directly enriching a town where the median household income is now $17,000.

Johnson also hopes that sprucing up the town’s bedraggled appearance will help entice new businesses.

“Small communities like us, we don’t have a tax base to do this on our own,” says Johnson. “So this stimulus package, if it reaches down to this small community, will be a godsend.”