When it comes to economic stimulus there’s a bit of an inherent tension between trying to use the money efficiently and trying to maximize the number of jobs created. The Obama administration’s main idea has been that stimulus funds should be used on well-designed programs and projects, rather than just spewed around in potentially wasteful ways and make-work jobs. But I think there’s a decent case to be made that this is the wrong way to go.
Tim Fernholz observes that Phil Bredesen, the conservative Democrat governor of Tennessee last seen doing his best to dismantle Medicaid, is offering us a glimpse of the other path, as detailed in this New York Times story. It’s easy to make the more WPA-like approach look good, it’s faster and more effective at getting people to work. But it’s also easy to make it look bad, as it involves some public expenditures on projects (“the milkshake place near the high school”) whose value isn’t necessarily clear.