This is not, not, not a blog post about the economic efficacy of fiscal stimulus, rather think of it as an analysis of the public relations of the stimulus.
I ask myself a simple question: have I seen any completed benefits from ARRA, which now passed into law well over two years ago? I drive around all the time and I see ARRA-funded projects which are not yet finished. The lane closures make my life worse, although the new lanes might eventually lower traffic congestion. I wish I could say these projects will be done soon, but that is not obvious.
My “grandma test” for a big spending program on infrastructure would be:
1) Has it fixed the mess at LaGuardia airport?
2) Does the DC Metro run any better?
Again, that’s PR, not analytics about the net return of the program, but I believe the answer to both 1) and 2) is “no.” The DC Metro seems to run worse each year.
I find this all remarkable, if only as viewed through the light of public choice economics. More useful monuments might have been expected.
There is no need to list the not-so-easily-seen benefits of ARRA in the comments; doing so would suggest you were not paying attention. This is a post about the easily seen benefits and how remarkably unpersuasive they have proven.