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If the first stimulus was like an alarm that was supposed to wake up the economy and get it back on its feet, the economy slept right through it.
Some economists says it may not have been set loud enough.
"We’ve not done as good a job with the stimulus as we could have," said Northeastern University labor market professor Andrew Sum. "It’s not been very well targeted. It’s not been very transparent."
With the economy basically hitting snooze, the question facing Congress is: Let the economy wake up on its own, or give it another buzz by funding a second federal stimulus package?
Of all the candidates for Massachusetts' open U.S. Senate seat, Democrat Alan Khazei wants to turn it up the loudest.
"I believe we need an aggressive jobs program," Khazei said.
Khazei wants tax cuts to spur businesses to hire and invest. He also wants a slew of stimulus spending, like more national service jobs for college grads. But other candidates say Khazei has it all wrong.
"I’m definitely against a second stimulus," said Republican Jack E. Robinson. "The only thing the stimulus stimulated was the government. And the only way to create jobs is to stimulate the private sector."
Robinson’s idea is to drop the capital gains tax next year to coax companies into spending more on property and equipment.
His Republican primary opponent, State Sen. Scott Brown, wants to keep the tax code where it is by making President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. Brown does not want more stimulus spending.
"In Massachusetts, we’re 49th out of 50 (states) in actually releasing the money," Brown said. "So why would we do another stimulus when we haven’t even done the first one?"
In contrast, Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, is not ruling out a second stimulus package. However, she's not ruling one in, either.
"I’d want to make sure, before we use dollars, that we’d make sure what worked and what didn’t on Stimulus one," Coakley said. "Particularly in Massachusetts."
Like Coakley, Democrat Steve Pagliuca is noncommittal about a second round.
"We already have a national debt of over $12 trillion," Pagliuca said. "That’s a scary number."
What Pagliuca wants to do is take money from the first stimulus that hasn’t been spent yet and put those couple hundred billion dollars more directly toward job training and creation.
But Democrat Rep. Michael Capuano defends the first stimulus for saving more jobs than people realize, even if it’s not creating many. Capuano did, after all, vote for it. He is a congressman. And he says he’d vote for a second.
"The next one probably won’t be called stimulus because this one has kind of a bad name," Capuano said. But that doesn't bother him. "Whatever they come up with, that’s fine, I’ll use whatever term they want, he said. "If it creates jobs, I’ll be for it."
So consider again the analogy of stimulus spending as an alarm clock that jolts the economy awake. Two Senate candidates, both Democrats, want to set the alarm again: Michael Capuano and Alan Khazei, who wants to turn it up.
The two Republicans, Scott Brown and Jack E. Robinson, want to turn it off. They say it’s too expensive and doesn’t really work.
And then Democrats Steve Pagliuca and Martha Coakley are iffy about setting it again. They’re gonna sleep on it.
This program aired on November 23, 2009.
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