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Tilting at Windmills

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January 25, 2010

PERCEPTIONS VS REALITY ON STIMULUS.... Congressional Republicans have invested considerable energy over the last year in trying to convince the country that economic recovery efforts were a mistake. The stimulus, the GOP insists, didn't work.

The repetition, coupled with a still-struggling economy, has proven persuasive to much of the public -- a new CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans believes the investments were wasted or spent for political reasons, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Among economists, however, we seem awfully close to complete unanimity that the Democrats' recovery effort rescued the economy from collapse, created jobs, and generated economic growth that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Among the experts, this isn't even worth debating anymore -- it's simply an obvious truth that the stimulus was effective.

USA Today published an item today after surveying a panel of economists.

President Obama's stimulus package saved jobs -- but the government still needs to do more to breathe life into the economy, according to USA TODAY's quarterly survey of 50 economists.

Unemployment would have hit 10.8% -- higher than December's 10% rate -- without Obama's $787 billion stimulus program, according to the economists' median estimate. The difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs.

Not surprisingly, the economists believe there should be more stimulus, not less, including increased spending on infrastructure.

But that's almost certainly impossible, because of public opinion as reflected in the CNN poll.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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The WH can cry me a river. They were told back when the stimulus was put together that it was too small and too heavily weighted towards non-stimulating tax cuts. They were also told that it would be very difficult to pass subsequent stimulus bills and that -- because of the lag between legislation and spending -- subsequent bills would likely be too little too late.

Lo and behold, the stimulus bill turned out to be too small and Obama is being blamed by both the Left, who realized all along that the stimulus was too small, and the Right, who assume that if unemployment isn't at 5% then the stimulus "didn't work."

As the WH spinmeisters begin to whine that many Americans don't properly grasp fundamental macroeconomic principles, I do believe that I hear the world's smallest violin tuning up.

Posted by: square1 on January 25, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

But that's almost certainly impossible, because of public opinion as reflected in the CNN poll.

Polls and Public Opinion make the world go around, yeah, right.

So who makes the polls?

This tight little sphincter of a system is always used as an excuse, except when it isn't -- like recently the popularity of the exceedingly complicated and obscure technical concept:

"le option public".

Yeah, who really gave a shit what the public opinion was on that -- for some reason. I wonder why? (thinking... thinking... thinking...)

Posted by: neill on January 25, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

As you've so often stated Steve, sometimes leaders have to dismiss polls that evidence a misunderstanding of what are admittedly complex issues. Like this one.

Posted by: terraformer on January 25, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

we seem awfully close to complete unanimity

Congrats on your economics degree, Steve.


But that's almost certainly impossible, because of public opinion as reflected in the CNN poll.

Just travel around the country and you'll hear Limbaugh talking points coming up all the time in people's conversations. I get the feeling people were laying low in their critic of Obama, but ever since Massachusetts they seem to be emboldened and are coming out of the woodwork. Listen to Rush for 20 minutes and then go out and overhear some street chatter. You'll hear a distinct echo.

Posted by: oh my on January 25, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Impossible too since the Republicans are now in the majority.

Posted by: Chris- The Fold on January 25, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

@ oh my, you are exactly right!!

Posted by: Chris- The Fold on January 25, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Steve had link to either an AEI or CATO summary that the stim, package was a success. Anyone have that? Need it to send to my disbelieving right wing friends who must've failed eco in college.
Speaking ow which, I get a distinct feeling that anyone who took eco after about 1983 must have learned a lot of Chicago crap that was dissed by my profs. Glad I was educated pre-Chicago.

Posted by: Phil on January 25, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Curiously, last night, I saw a CNN spot plugging an upcoming series on where "our" money went during the stimulus. I suspect some anecdotal hooting about "waste, fraud, and avuse" may be in the offing.
And now, this poll.
Geez, this is a helluva marketing campaign CNN's got going.

Posted by: charles pierce on January 25, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

If Obama allows his agenda to be set by polls he is doomed. The polls on healthcare and the stimulus are where they are now because Obama has failed to lead. Leading on these issues requires not only that he present his point of view but that he discredits the opposition's view of the world. In the campaign he excelled at both GOTV and negative campaigning. He can make a show of extending a hand to the GOP all he wants but he must do a better job of discrediting the GOP world view.

Posted by: rk on January 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

When the Republicans regain the Senate, the White House, and the House of Representatives in 2012, the exit polls will show that the public blamed Democrats for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recession of '08, the ruinous Medicare drug plan, skyrocketing deficits, unemployment and the increasing negativity in politics.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on January 25, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Among the experts, -- it's simply an obvious truth that the stimulus was effective."

Who ya gonna believe? Some pointy headed innerlectuals, or my CNN-polled brother in law, who just lost his no-bid contract to plow the snow here in Key West?

Posted by: DAY on January 25, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but everybody knows that economists are just elitist, intellectual smartypants. Yucky! I gets my info from Sarah Palin and Faux "News".

Posted by: ckelly on January 25, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Obama, for the crappy messaging. Why does Obama have such an extreme aversion to trying to create his own narratives, rather than just going along with whatever narrative the Republicans or the Beltway media have created. Just once, I'd like to see a Democrat knock the Republicans back on their heels, rather crouching in the fetal position and wishing it would all go away.

I think that Plouffe's op-ed in the Post may have been his worst mistake. Since the bed-wetters are in charge, they are not going to let someone with a clear vision have any power. If Obama had any spine, he'd fire Rahm, Timmy, and Larry, and put Plouffe in charge.

Posted by: Steve on January 25, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

The repetition, coupled with a still-struggling economy, has proven persuasive to much of the public -- a new CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans believes the investments were wasted or spent for political reasons, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

**************************************************

Just more evidence of how utterly stupid the citizens of your country are. The key word above is 'believe': evidence to counter that belief notwithstanding. That defines the stupidity of your citizens. Essentially, a country who 'believes' in delusions that want to be considered 'reality'. No wonder a majority of your citizens 'believes' that the Earth is less than 10,000 year old. A country that 'believes' that government is the problem not the corporations that are destroying it. A country is which that 'believes' in American 'exceptionalism' despite the fact there is not exceptional at all. What is exceptional when you have a country that only constitutes 5 percent of the world population yet uses 25 percent of the Earth resources ? What is exceptional in a country who houses 10 percent of it's population in prisons ? The highest rate of imprisonment in any country in the world. What is exceptional about a country where 30 percent of the population is morbidly obese ? And another 40 percent overweight and fat ? A country in which your doctors kill over 95,000 of your citizens every year through mis-diagnosis and error ? A country in which over 300,000 of your citizens who go into a hospital end up with some disease or infection that they did not have prior to entering the hospital ? A country in which over 30 percent of your citizens, and have a family of four, earn less that $21,000 a year ? And thus under the poverty level of existence while at the same time less that 1 percent of your citizens control 95 percent of all the money ? Does that sound 'exceptional' ? How about a country in which 30 percent of your citizens can't even find your own country on a world map ? A country in the 1820's created the doctrine called MANIFEST DESTINY that justified the genocide of the Native American population who lived there before the Europeans invaded it and took it over as there own ? Does that sound 'exceptional'.

And of course, now, a Corporate Media who does the bidding of the Corporations themselves and thus generates lies and propaganda to further the Corporate agenda and needs that start with enriching themselves. And now the decision by your "Supreme" court that has turned over what was left of your government to the Corporations. In essence, now making your country nothing but a FACIST STATE ? Just like Mussolini's Italy. A facist fucking country. Does that sound exceptional ? And, again, a population that is so fucking stupid that it is truly a danger to the rest of the planet. Your country is a total fucking disgrace. And it is the biggest danger to the rest of the planet. YOUR ENEMY IS WITHIN. And that enemy is your CORPORATIONS WHO ARE ABLE TO CONVINCE THE STUPID CITIZENS OF YOUR COUNTRY that the government who tries to create programs that will help them, the middle class and the poor, are actually against their own interests. AND A CORPORATE MEDIA WHOSE INTENTION IS TO KEEP YOUR CITIZENS STUPID.

Posted by: blue on January 25, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

How many times does the republican echo chamber have to demonstrate its effectiveness before Democratic pols figure out that it needs to counter it constantly and aggressively? As far as I'm concerned Obama and the rest took months off working policy issues and allowed the repubs to do what they always do - get headlines screaming nonsense. It doesn't matter how stupid the nonsense is, it works because the deliver the message in synchrony, constantly, and with passion.

I don't think the dems should do the same thing in terms of spewing illogical nonsense. I just think they need to get their game on and sell, sell, sell. Constantly and forcefully. No more mealy-mouthed academic-sounding generosity. Don't point out the subtle differences in position that make your position superior. Point out the fundamental flaws in the other guy's position. And believe it!! This is a key part of your job. Dems act like it's a trip to the dentist.

I predict next August the repubs will have yet another open month to generate anger while the dems have polite policy discussions at the beach.

If we get a repeat performance, I'm just staying home in November. I have hobbies that need nurturing.

Posted by: rramos on January 25, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know why the thread even continued after the initial comment by square1, which summed matters up perfectly.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Wanted to pick a fight with Blue. I did not have a counter argument.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on January 25, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that in a sound-bite world, comparing the present (i.e. tepid recovery) to something that never happened (i.e. economic collapse) is very difficult to do persuasively.

If people had actually had to experience economic collpase their opinions about the way the money has been spent would certainly be different, but for now "economic collapse" is simple an abstract concept which never happened.

Posted by: mfw13 on January 25, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Unemployment would have hit 10.8% -- higher than December's 10% rate -- without Obama's $787 billion stimulus program, a difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs."

Wow, that's only $655,000 per job. What a bargain!

Posted by: flubber on January 25, 2010 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think the CNN poll is more in tune with what the general public is experiencing. They are not seeing results from the Democrats economic recovery efforts in their own personal lives. Take Medicare, for example. When I did my annual enrollment, I found an increase in some Medicare plans and some with a decline in benefits. With no cost of living in Social Security, I need to find other ways to reduce my budget to pay for the increase in my Medicare. Luckily, I was able to find a Medicare plan to meet my budget using the search and compare tool at PlanPrescriber.com but other Medicare recipients, depending on where they live, may not be as fortunate.

Posted by: Mona on January 26, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK
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