Policy Analysis

The Stimulus – Still Reaping Results

October 25, 2010

Amid all the gloom and doom talk about our mounting deficit, towering bills and crushing unemployment, I would like to say the following:  If it were not for the stimulus, the situation would have been worse.  Way worse.  In fact, some say, if it were not for the implementation of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), we would have landed in a full-blown depression.

So, before you start slipping back into election season torpor, I’d like to share some good news:  As a result of nearly $150 million in funding from the ARRA, the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLSII) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is on track to be completed more than a year ahead of schedule.  Moreover, according to the Brookhaven Web site, “… NSLS-II is expected to create more than 1,250 construction jobs and 450 scientific, engineering and support jobs, plus additional jobs at U.S. material suppliers and service providers.”

On Oct. 13, 2010, construction workers, Brookhaven and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officials, invited guests and lab staff signed the final beam to close the ring building of the NSLS-II, which has been under construction since 2009.  Jim Castellane, president of the Nassau/Suffolk Building Trades Council, who spoke at the event, said,  “It took me three months [just] to do my bathroom!”

Indeed, Jim.

Congressman Tim Bishop echoed those sentiments in his remarks:  “There’s a school of thought that [the Recovery Act] was a big mistake that we have nothing to show for it.  Well, call me crazy, but this looks pretty real to me.”

But to me, the testament to the ARRA goes far beyond the amazing structures and enterprises it has fueled:  It has put people back to work.

Some of you will remember my Nov. 9, 2009 post, which described some of the fantastic work going on around the country using ARRA funds in the scientific community.  After that post, I traveled to Brookhaven to see the NSLSII work.  Waddling around the construction site, 8 ½ months pregnant, I came upon a construction worker.  I asked him what the project meant to him.  He said he would have been sitting at the union hall waiting for work if the ARRA money had not been available to help fund the NSLSII project.  Additionally, he would not have received medical insurance without a job.

This would have meant that his wife, also pregnant at the time of my visit, would not have gotten the prenatal care she required.  I was lucky.  I had that luxury.  Without the ARRA funds, his wife would not have had the same.

So, the next time you read or hear a news report about how President Obama’s stimulus package did nothing but get our country deeper into debt, please do me a favor and remember the workers from  Local 137, Local 15D and Local 1281 in New York and others throughout  the country.

The ARRA funds kept many of them working and covered with medical insurance.  Oh, and it kept the largest science project in the DOE complex – soon to be the world’s most advanced synchrotron light source, providing new tools for science to enhance national and energy security – moving ahead. Sounds like something to me!

Policy news and viewpoints for the physics community. The analysis and opinions are those of the APS Office of Public Affairs and do not necessarily represent the entire Society.