Obama Dragging His Feet On Stimulus (And Everything Else)?

Barack Obama has held a number of press conferences, but he’s taking hits for not stepping up sooner on policy issues. On Gaza, for example, he’s taking criticism for not lending his voice, though we think it makes sense for him to stay quiet if he his views differ from Bush’s. And apparently Congress feels he hasn’t moved fast enough to convey his ideas for a stimulus. 

WSJ: Democratic leaders are increasingly concerned that they won’t be able to offer an economic stimulus package for congressional debate until late January because they haven’t received a plan from President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.

Democrats initially had hoped to unveil details of the economic recovery package this week and to pass it by Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, so it would be ready for Mr. Obama’s signature soon after his swearing-in. Estimates are that the plan will call for spending as much as $850 billion over two years.

“The weak economy demands quick action, and that is our intention,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said in an interview Tuesday. “But significant work remains to be done. We need to do this right and make wise investments, plus members and the public need time to review it. So the timing very well may slip.”

Considering that this is his last vacation time for the next four or maybe eight years, we wouldn’t want to be rushing out a detailed stimulus scheme, either. Sure, these aren’t normal times, but if the difference is having something to debate starting on Jan. 20th or the last few days in January then it’s not that big of a deal. If the bill is so important, it should be important enough not to do a rush job.

In the meantime, it’s pretty remarkable how significantly construction has collapsed (due in large part to housing, no doubt), and how thirst this industry is for federal dollars. Mark Kuhar of PIt & Quarry offers some stats on the production of aggregates (crushed stone) for the third quarter:

The largest decreases in percentages were recorded in the South Atlantic (27 per cent) and the Mountain (21 per cent) divisions. Production-for-consumption of aggregates decreased in 39 of the 48 States that were estimated. The five leading States, in descending order of production-for-consumption, were Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio. Their combined total production-for-consumption was 191 Mt and represented 28 per cent of the U.S. total.

By my estimation, 2008 production of crushed stone is on pace to finish the year at at just over the 1 billion ton-per-year mark. Construction sand and gravel should finish the year at about the 900 million ton-per-year mark. If so, it would mean total construction aggregates in 2008 would be approximately 2-billion tons per year, a level so low it has not been seen since the 1992-1994 time frame.

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