Maze cartoon of a
maze of the stimulus funds application process.
Maze cartoon of a maze
representing the stimulus fund application process maze. The monkey
character says, "Why is this just not working?!
here for a printable, hi-res file of the maze of a maze
here for the maze of a maze maze solution
More on the topic of this maze cartoon:
Stimulus Plan That Didn’t Stimulate
While they’re not officially over, and probably won’t be for
several more months, the federal stimulus programs launched over the
past 18 months or so are certainly fading away.
And while it will likely take economists and university
researchers years to try to tabulate the relative good of the sum of
these programs, which totaled close to $1 trillion, a long look out an
office window in Springfield, Holyoke, or Northampton would likely
yield a ‘not much’ as an answer to the question ‘what did the stimulus
Yes, there have been some road and other infrastructure
projects in several area communities that created temporary
construction opportunities and will, we hope, make traveling safer and
easier here in the Pioneer Valley. Meanwhile, there were some stimulus
initiatives, such as the federal homebuyers tax credit and the famous
(or infamous) Cash for Clunkers program that produced spikes in
consumer activity that, if one wants to be generous, probably kept
things from getting any worse than they ultimately became.
But a quick look at the business page, which, at press time,
was telling of a precipitous slide on Wall Street, single-family home
sales in July that were down 25% from a year ago, sluggish
back-to-school sales, national unemployment hovering just below that
crisis level of 10%, and economists predicting slow — make that
painfully slow — growth for the national economy, reveals that things
are still quite bad.
So a stimulus plan that was designed to put Americans back to
work and create momentum that would put the worst downturn since the
Great Depression in the rear-view mirror did neither. Which leads us to
the question: What now?
Another stimulus package? Not with the way the national debt
is spiraling. At the very least, we can’t have another package like the
one we just had, which produced only temporary and sporadic relief. If
there is to be more public-sector effort with regard to stimulating the
economy, it needs to be undertaken with the goal of providing direct
support to businesses in the form of tax breaks and other incentives
that will drive growth and, eventually, real job creation.
But for now, the inherent failure of the stimulus packages to
create real momentum leaves the region and the nation to come to grips
with the fact that if and when there is to be significant and lasting
recovery, it will likely have to come from the private sector. And this
is the attitude that should have been taken all along.
Indeed, the stimulus packages, while outwardly necessary in
most economists’ minds, couldn’t have produced the kinds of results
that many were expecting.
But how can a private sector still devoid of critically needed
confidence spur a recovery? That’s the $64,000 question. Until
companies feel confident enough to hire people, expand their
facilities, and embark on new endeavors, the economy is not going to
This region must continue to seek out and fully exploit new
avenues of growth — some already in early-stage development — from the
high performance computing center in Holyoke to efforts to stimulate
the precision manufacturing sector, to efforts to grow green energy
businesses, and create its own momentum.
It won’t be easy, and it might take some time to do this, but
if the $800 billion stimulus plan has taught us anything, it’s that
there are no quick fixes to what currently ails our economy.
Real, and long-lasting, recovery, is going to have to come the