In the 1930's, FDR was able to create thousands upon thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy through infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam. In 2009, a similar attempt by Obama fell flat. Projects that were said to be "shovel-ready" were in fact nowhere near. According to this Wall Street Journal article, those projects failed to get off the ground largely because of a maze of environmental regulations and bureaucratic procedures that did not exist in the New Deal era. The effect of these regulations is substantial; according to a firm that advises on public works projects, a new bridge or a road through an urban area often requires five to seven years of planning before it is ready for a shovel. It is possible, says the author, that the Hoover Dam could not even be built today.
Obama is pushing for a new round of infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy, but any stimulus is unlikely to happen as long as these delays remain in place. I can't help but wonder what will happen to the country's infrastructure if it takes five years of bureaucratic haggling to even get started on a project.