The Economy Today: Polling the Stimulus

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

As signs of economic improvement overseas continue to crop up—most recently, according to The New York Times, in JapanThe Washington Post reports today that many economists are lowering expectations about a recovery in the U.S. Traditionally, the economy rebounds from a downturn “like a rubber band,” a Brookings economist tells the Post, but it’s hard to see where the bounceback will come from in this case. That’s because both the financial sector and the typical consumer are still stressed, and there’s no indication yet that foreign demand will drive a major surge in exports.

Meanwhile, while many experts have been crediting the federal stimulus package for its role in boosting the economy, a new poll from USA Today indicates the public doesn’t entirely agree. About a third of respondents believe the program has had no effect, and about a quarter believe it has made matters worse. Less than 20 percent believe it has helped their personal financial situation. (The Arizona Republic surveyed economists on the stimulus for a Sunday story and found more mixed views.)

In local coverage, the Los Angeles Times reports on the continuing struggles faced by major ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, where a full recovery is not anticipated until 2013, according to a new report. The LAT story echoes today’s Post piece in noting that unlike prior downturns, in the current recession “no such pent-up demand exists. Instead there has been a fundamental lowering of financial capability.”

Elsewhere, the Miami Herald takes a stab at following the flow of stimulus funds through Florida: in the coming weeks, the paper says, it “will follow four local companies as they navigate their way to stimulus contracts.” In another story today, the paper examines a local construction company which, with private construction efforts essentially halted, is focusing on government contracts. “They’re not coming out as fast as we’d like them to, but one or two are coming out every month,” the owner tells the paper. “A lot of projects that had been on hold have been released pending the federal stimulus package.”

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.