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|Norris believes in stimulus bill|
West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris is optimistic the economic stimulus package President Obama signed into law last week will help the nation's economy and provide money for infrastructure projects in Ouachita Parish.
Norris, who a doctorate in economics from Miss. State University, said the stimulus package is controversial among leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties. Opinions vary on whether the stimulus package will jumpstart the U.S. economy, which is plagued by a deep recession.
"I think from an economic theory point of view, it's sound reasoning," Norris said. "It's sound to try and boost spending at a time when consumer spending is really falling off."
He said consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of the nation's economy. Many people had money in 401k retirement plans and the stock market and "everybody has lost a lot of money," he said.
"The layoffs and unemployment rising … all of that can be mitigated to some extent by increasing spending, and the stimulus package involves spending by extending unemployment benefits," Norris explained. "Our state is talking about cutting payroll, education, health care. For all of these things, if the federal government can come in and help the states with those expenses, that means there will be fewer layoffs. The big part of the stimulus package is saving jobs that exist right now, not just creating jobs."
He said much of the talk against the stimulus package has been from critics bashing parts of the package they do not like.
"This has been said a number of times - it has $50 million in it for support of the National Endowment for the Arts," Norris said. "I don't know if it's in there or not, but $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, out of the $800 billion package … if that's all you've got to complain about, that's such a tiny part. It almost sends a message out that 'I can't find much wrong with it, so I'm going to complain about the little things I do find wrong with it.'
"Some of the people who are complaining the loudest are complaining about a pretty small component of the stimulus package.
"I think most mainstream economists believe that stimulating spending, especially infrastructure spending, can have a very positive impact on the economy."
Norris said many people are focused on the negative aspects of the economy. He says that can have an effect on people.
"The psychology of all this really is a serious problem," Norris said. "You've heard the term self-fulfilling prophecy. You can think something is going to happen and you act in a certain way, and you make it more likely that it does happen."
"If you think we are going to have another Great Depression, your normal reaction is to try and store up all the money you can and cut back on your spending," Norris continued. "Well, that's a smart thing to do, but if everybody does that, then it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
He said every dollar people spend has an effect on the economy, and every dollar that people don't spend impacts the economy, too.
Regarding government spending to improve infrastructure throughout the country, Norris said, "If we improve our water systems and sewer systems, we improve our ability to create industrial jobs and any other kind of jobs."
"So, I think we have to take a positive attitude about it," he said. "From the comments I've read from people I consider to be mainstream economists, the biggest criticism of the stimulus package is it may not be big enough … it may not have enough of a positive impact, even though it's a movement in the right direction."
Concerning talk about the deficit and how the spending plan will put the country further into debt, Norris said people need to remember what has happened with the deficit over the last eight years, 2001-2009.
"The deficit has almost doubled in that eight-year period of time," Norris said. "So for us to say, 'This amount of deficit spending is the deficit spending that will be put on our children's and grandchildren's backs'… I didn't hear that same amount of criticism for the doubling of the debt in the last eight years."
"There's a lot of posturing going on with both sides about this, and there's a lot of conversation going on that's inaccurate," he added.
Norris encouraged people to study the stimulus package themselves. He suggested people visit the Congressional Budget Office's web site at www.cbo.gov to read CBO's analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"That's a pretty objective source," Norris said. "That's not an advocacy for the right or the left."
"They realize that we can't spend the money all at once and it will take several years, and not all of it is as simulative as some of the rest of it," he said. "But they estimate that it will make a positive difference in the unemployment rate and the rate of growth in the economy.
"You have to have confidence in somebody. You have to think that some of our leaders are trying to do the right thing."