Governing under Stress

The Implementation of Obama's Economic Stimulus Program

Timothy J. Conlan, Paul L. Posner, and Priscilla M. Regan, Editors

"A powerful survey that is packed with important insights from a wide range of administrators and policy makers."
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The underappreciated but surprisingly successful implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped rescue the economy during the Great Recession and represented one of the most important achievements of the Obama presidency. It tested all levels of government with urgent time frames and extensive accountability requirements. While ARRA passed most tests with comparatively little mismanagement or fraud, negative public and media perceptions of the initiative deprived the president of political credit.

Drawing on more than two hundred interviews and nationwide field research, Governing under Stress examines a range of ARRA stimulus programs to analyze the fraught politics, complex implementation, and impact of the legislation. Essays from public administration scholars use ARRA to study how to implement large federal programs in our modern era of indirect, networked governance. Throughout, the contributors present potent insights into the most pressing challenges facing public policy and management, and they uncover important lessons about policy instruments and networks, the effects of transparency and accountability, and the successes and failures of different types of government intervention.

Table of Contents


1.Managing the Great Recession: A Stress Test for Modern Governance
Timothy J. Conlan, Paul L. Posner, and Priscilla M. Regan

2. Economic Crisis and Policy Response: The Context, Design, and Politics of the Recovery Act
Timothy J. Conlan and Paul L. Posner

3. A Lifeline to Struggling States: The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund
Timothy J. Conlan

4. The Rush to Pave: Adapting the Federal-aid Highway Network to ARRA
Sheldon M. Edner and Matthew J. Critchfield

5. Oh What a Tangled Web: Implementation of Broadband Assistance Grants
Priscilla M. Regan

6. Weathering Explosive Growth: Weatherization Assistance Grants under ARRA
Alan J. Abramson

7. A Bump in the Road: The Benefits of Established Networks for Implementing ARRA under the New Markets Tax Credit Program
Lehn M. Benjamin

8. Governing Without Networks? Implementing the Advanced Energy Tax Credit Program
Stefan Toepler and Matthew Sommerfeld

9. Accountability under Stress: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Paul L. Posner

10. Conclusions: Networked Governance under Stress
Paul L. Posner, Timothy J. Conlan, and Priscilla M. Regan

Select Bibliography
List of Contributors


"a welcome contribution to the literature and could be adapted for use by researchers and in the classroom for courses in public policy making and administration as well as state and local government."—Publius: The Journal of Federalism

"A powerful survey that is packed with important insights from a wide range of administrators and policy makers."—Midwest Book Review

"After a plethora of studies of the impact of the Obama stimulus on the national economy, here at last is an insightful analysis of what happened in the states. The authors have made an invaluable contribution to our understanding of our federal system under stress."—Alice M. Rivlin, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Founding Director of the Congressional Budget Office


Alan J. Abramson Lehn M. Benjamin Timothy J. Conlan Matthew J. Critchfield Sheldon M. Edner Paul L. Posner Priscilla M. Regan Matthew Sommerfeld Stefan Toepler

Supplemental Materials


Co-Winner of the 2018 SPAR Best Book Award of the American Society for Public Administration

About the Author

Timothy J. Conlan is university professor of government at George Mason University. He coauthored Pathways of Power with Paul L. Posner.

Paul L. Posner is the director of the Graduate Public Administration Program, head of the Centers on the Public Service at George Mason University, and author of The Politics of Unfunded Mandates.

Priscilla M. Regan is a professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University.

256 pp., 6 x 9
11 figures, 15 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-369-0
Jan 2017

256 pp., 6 x 9
11 figures, 15 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-370-6
Jan 2017

256 pp.
11 figures, 15 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-371-3
Jan 2017

Public Management and Change series
Beryl A. Radin, Series Editor

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