Timothy J. Conlan, Paul L. Posner, and Pricilla M. Regan, eds., Governing Under Stress: The Implementation of Obama's Economic Stimulus Program ( Washington, DC : Georgetown University Press , 2017). 256 pp. $32.95 (softcover), ISBN: 9781626163706

Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
612 Public Administration Review July | A ugus t 201 9
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 612–614. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13080.
Reviewed by: Tonya T. Neaves
Katherine M. Simon
George Mason University
In memory of Paul L. Posner
In 2007, the United States experienced the Great
Recession, an economic downfall that had not
plagued the country since the Great Depression.
Recessionary conditions rapidly spread across the
“globalized” world economy, where every country
is interdependently connected. As a response to this
period of uncertainty and the corresponding loss of
7 million jobs, President Barack Obama passed the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA),
with a total funding package of US$787 billion. These
funds were to be used to stimulate local, regional,
and state economies with a focus on healthcare, clean
energy, and infrastructure initiatives. The federal
response on spending was based on a three-pronged
policy approach: providing (1) US$288 billion in tax
cuts, (2) US$224 billion in unemployment benefits,
and (3) US$275 billion in federal grants and loans.
With such a large-scale injection into the economy,
there are clearly gaps in understanding funds utilized
at this level, as well as determining gaps in associated
outputs versus outcomes.
The realm of policy making is inundated with
principal–agent relationships. Issues of accountability,
transparency, and network complexity plague
implementation. In Conlan, Posner, and Regan’s
(2017) Governing Under Stress: The Implementation of
Obama’s Economic Stimulus Program, the authors focus
on examining the effectiveness of the administration of
grant and loan funding by highlighting the differences
between the public perception of and reality of
government performance across a number of programs.
Organized into a series of six case studies, the editors
analyze the success of these programs in meeting
ARRA goals. They noted that the ARRA created
iconic programs with novel administrative provisions
that expanded the tools of governance. Still, they were
adopted during a highly polarized and politicized
environment, which went through a series of legislative
entanglements to be passed. The editors, acclaimed
pracademics, offer lessons learned and best practices on
shared governance and network implementation.
Public administration abides by a decree of the 3Es,
that is, efficiency, effectiveness, and expediency. There
are also concerns of accountability and transparency.
Still, common challenges remain regarding
motivational basis and line control, leading to varied
differences in the implementation of programs.
Conlan, Posner, and Regan begin with how this
period of uncertainty drew historical parallels to the
New Deal of the 1930s, in which many leaders had
a disconnect with the social, political, and economic
realities of the time. As such, there was a decentralized
effort in managing the crisis. Fast-forward, federal
representatives are now cosigned with local bureaucrats
to work on projects with unrealistic expectations,
executions, and deadlines. True, the ARRA was an
innovative and ambitious policy approach that often
required a trisectoral perspective. The editors then
move on to using thematic frames to provide insight
into the case studies with concepts such as (1) place
and politics, (2) dynamics of third- party governance,
(3) shared service agreements, (4) contracting, and (5)
collaborative public–private system.
Chapter three is the first case study that explores
the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a model that was
viewed to be used for national financial assistance to
state and local governments during future economic
downturns. However, Conlan, Posner, and Regan
argue that some came to consider this federal aid
education program as a fiscal lifeline of program
support given that it proceeded in an expeditious
manner despite a series of complications. Timely
information on federal rules and regulations for
this unique program, as well as the necessity for
many partners, made implementation additionally
difficult. This “Race to the Top” initiative, even with
emergency stimulus assistance, merely paved the way
for many states to maintain a certain level of effort.
Moving on to chapters four and five, Conlan, Posner,
and Regan explore areas of critical infrastructure.
The Federal Aid Highway Program was a $40 billion
initiative administered via the Federal Highway
Timothy J. Conlan, Paul L. Posner, and Pricilla M. Regan, eds.,
Governing Under Stress: The Implementation of Obama’s Economic
Stimulus Program ( Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press,
2017). 256 pp. $32.95 (softcover), ISBN: 9781626163706
Book Reviews
Galia Cohen, Editor
Tonya T. Neaves is assistant professor
and director of the Centers on the Public
Service at George Mason University’s
Schar School of Policy and Government.
Her research interests primarily focus
on communal resiliency, emergency
management, and critical infrastructure. As
an active member of the American Society
for Public Administration, Tonya recently
served as Conference Program Co-Chair
and District Representative and is also the
Treasurer for its Section on Emergency and
Crisis Management.
E-mail: tneaves@gmu.edu
Katie M. Simon is a graduate research
assistant with the Centers on the Public
Service at George Mason University’s
Schar School of Policy and Government.
Katie’s research interests primarily focus on
community engagement and resiliency. She
is a member of the American Society for
Public Administration.
E-mail: ksimon6@gmu.edu

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