Above The Fold 05.25.09

Stimulus wages not stimulating economy so much as paying off credit cards…Rural workers and immigrants vie for same bad jobs…Gone Fishin’ stickers seen as bad sign for those in Social Security Administration…Sharing electricity and fish…Colorado city wants broadband, officials question whether residents have computers…Canadians feel left out when it comes to strict American boarder patrol… Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day!

Maryland launched the first road project in the US funded from the stimulus package. Though unemployed workers are jubilant about having a job, turnaround has yet to reach beyond workers’ wallets into the rest of the economy, the Washington Post reported this weekend. According to Peter Morici, economist from the University of Maryland, workers are more likely to pay down credit cards than go shopping. “It’s going to take a while before we feel like we can do anything but recover,” Donavin Petre said in his company’s work yard. Even though he has a job that is currently funded largely by stimulus money, he wishes the federal government would be more responsible with the budget. “I’m glad to have a job, absolutely. But I’m afraid my son will be paying this off for the next 50 years.”

Local residents in Shelbyville, Tennessee are competing with immigrants for jobs at the local Tyson food plant, according to the Wall Street Journal. Of the sixty hires, seventeen were Burmese refugees. David Curtis seethed. “This is the worst job I have ever applied for,” a 31-year-old welder, who had already failed to find work at a convenience store, a pen factory and a Pizza Hut. Eyeballing those ahead of him, he added: “I’m very annoyed foreigners are taking jobs that Americans need.”

Early retirement claims are increasing as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Social security claims are running 25% ahead of last year, according to Stephen C. Godd, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration. “When the recession ends and the economy bounces back, there may be a band of people for whom things will never be the same again. They’ll still be paying the price for 10, 20, 30 years down the road,” said Cristina Martin Firvida, director of economic security for AARP, the nation’s largest membership organization for people 50 and older.

As a sign of the times, cities and counties are sharing services and combining operations to save money. Among other things, Minnesota and Wisconsin are sharing fish to help stock the state’s lakes, the New York Times reports. The sharing, officials in the two states say, could save them $20 million over the next two years. “What you have is an economy that is forcing people to share,” said Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., the county executive in Essex County, N.J., which (for $4 million a year) began accepting juvenile detainees this spring from neighboring Passaic County, which closed its own facility (to save $10 million a year).

The Associated Press reported this weekend that Colorado is looking to grab some of the $7.2 billion in stimulus funds for broadband. But some state officials are worried that some areas fall between the cracks. Places like Glenwood Springs, Colorado don’t qualify as being an underserved area, but because of the mountains, the area is hard to service. “We’re sort of at a crossroads,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen said.

According to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, forty-seven states will have to deal with significant budget gaps over the next two years, BusinessWeek reports. Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota are the only three states currently on tap to avoid adding to the collective $350 billion in expected shortfalls in 2010 and 2011. California’s budget gap is the most troubling, but fiscal “experts” think now is the time to cut the fat of government. “We need to take a new look at everything and decide how much government we want,” says Louis H. Schimmel Jr., director of the municipal finance staff at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan.

Also from the New York Times, Customs and Border Protection officials report new security measures go into effect on June 1. These new measures will require Americans entering the country by land or sea to show government approved identification. The biggest impact is expected along the nearly 4,000-mile border that the United States shares with Canada, which both countries once boasted was the world’s longest undefended frontier. “One of the things that I think we need to be sensitive to is the very real feeling among southern border states, and in Mexico, that if things are being done on the Mexican border, they should also be done on the Canadian border,” Ms. Napolitano said at a recent conference on the northern border at the Brookings Institution.

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