R. Reese Fuller

La. as the test for national economic stimulus

by R. Reese Fuller

On Sunday, The New York Times took a look at the more than $50 billion in federal money for Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina.
The experiment is still playing out, but some indicators suggest that what occurred in Louisiana — dumping a large amount of reconstruction money into a confined space in the three and a half years since Hurricane Katrina — has had a positive outcome. The state’s unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in February was considerably below the national average of 8.1 percent, and it was the only state to see a drop in unemployment from December to January. It was also the only state with an increase in non-farm employment in February.
The Times then contrasts that aid with Gov. Bobby Jindal's position that he will reject nearly $100 million in federal stimulus funds, along with his mantra that more spending by Democrats will be detrimental for the nation.
In Louisiana, however, the consequences have hardly been dire — just the opposite, in fact. One of the governor’s leading aides, the state’s recovery director, Paul Rainwater, praised the federal relief effort in Louisiana in recent remarks to Congress, the day after his boss scorned federal help on national television in the Republican Party’s response to President Obama’s first address to Congress.

“No other state in the nation has been blessed with such generosity from Congress and the American people,” Mr. Rainwater said.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times contrasted New Orleans' economy with the rest of the nation's. The city's unemployment rate is 5.3 percent compared to the national rate of 8.1 percent, and while construction employment in January fell by 10.2 percent nationwide, in New Orleans it rose by 5 percent.
Perhaps most important, the federal government has allocated $34.5 billion in rebuilding aid for the state, with $19 billion of that amount still to be spent, according to the Louisiana Recovery Authority. And that doesn't include the $3.8 billion headed to Louisiana under the federal stimulus package hammered out in February.