Gov. Deval Patrick has been criticized for being too slow to spend stimulus money on transportation projects but a new study suggests the bigger problem may be that such spending isn't an effective way to create jobs.

Gov. Deval Patrick has been criticized for being too slow to spend stimulus money on transportation projects but a new study suggests the bigger problem may be that such spending isn't an effective way to create jobs.


The nationwide analysis, conducted by The Associated Press and reviewed by independent economists at five universities, also casts doubt on the effectiveness of plans for a second stimulus – this time costing $75 billion – to revive the nation’s lethargic unemployment rate, which December figures show stuck at 10 percent.


The state numbers for that period won’t be available for a couple of weeks but if the previous two months are any indication we should come out looking slightly better than most states. The jobless rate here dropped sharply in October and edged even lower in November, coming in at 8.8 percent.


For its analysis, the AP examined the effects of road and bridge spending in counties in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


It found there was no difference in unemployment trends between counties that received the most stimulus money and those that received none. Experts said transportation spending is too small of a pebble to quickly create waves in the nation’s $14 trillion economy.


Jeffrey Simon, director of the Massachusetts Reinvestment and Recovery Office said in a recent Ledger story that, as of December, federal stimulus money has helped retain 1,450 construction jobs and created 410 jobs in that category. The entire construction industry, however, has lost 22,000 jobs statewide during the past year.


One economist compared the stimulus approach to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.


Last fall, U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chastised Patrick for being the second slowest governor in the nation when it comes to spending federal highway funds.


Patrick defended himself by saying his office was slow because it was focused on selecting projects that create spin-off work and permanent jobs.


That sounded reasonable but maybe the speed of spending isn’t the issue.


Congress meanwhile is moving quickly to give Obama additional road money he requested. The Senate will soon consider a proposal that would direct nearly $28 billion more on roads and bridges.


Given the response by nonpartisan economists, however, we might be advised to slow down.


“My bottom line is, I’d be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we’ve seen broader effects from the first stimulus,” said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who reviewed AP’s analysis.


Given our growing debt, we should all be skeptical.


The Patriot Ledger