The Economy Today: Schools and the Stimulus

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

The economic news of the morning, reported both by the Associated Press and Bloomberg, is that the U.S. trade deficit widened in June as exports rose, but imports rose even faster. The news is another sign of a rebounding economy both at home and abroad, but the persistence of the trade deficit may be a problem on its own. According to the AP, economists “expect the imbalance to begin to rise again in 2010 as the U.S. and global economies start to mend.”

Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal report today on surveys of economists. According to the Journal, the experts agree that the recession is over, but the economy—and in particular, the average wage-earner and consumer—is far from strong. (The panel also wants to see Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke re-appointed.) Bloomberg, meanwhile, turns its survey story into a defense of the federal government’s stimulus package. “We’ve averted the worst, and there are clear signs the stimulus is working,” says one New York economist. Even Susan Molinari, a former Republican congresswoman and an associate of Rudy Giuliani’s, has nice things to say about the stimulus.

Elsewhere on the stimulus front, papers around the country have begun to pick up on the story, reported Monday by the Anchorage Daily News, that Alaska lawmakers have overridden former Gov. Sarah Palin’s attempt to reject $28 million in federal funds for energy cost relief. Alaska law requires 75 percent of the Legislature to overturn a veto, and the threshold was met with no room to spare.

With summer coming to an end, regional papers continue to take a look at the use of stimulus funds in local schools. The Albany Times-Union reports that federal money and a $35 million grant for George Soros’s Open Society Institute will be combined to provide $200-per-student grants to needy families, to be used for school supplies. In South Carolina, nearly $20 million in stimulus funds will mean that schools in Greenville County will lose only 65 teaching positions, as opposed to a projected 238, according to the Greenville News. In Ohio, residents of one town are putting off a vote on local taxes for a new high school in the hope that they’ll get a larger share of stimulus money, reports The Chronicle-Telegram. And out in Oregon, the Daily Journal of Commerce puts the state under scrutiny for failing to take advantage of federal subsidies for construction bonds.

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