Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 1, 2010

WELL DESERVED KUDOS FOR THE RECOVERY ACT.... There's a certain awkwardness that comes with defending last year's stimulus, and not just because polls tend to find it unpopular. On the one hand, we see entirely legitimate criticisms from the left about the need for the Recovery Act to have been much bigger. On the right, we see complaints that the stimulus was a bad idea because ... well, whatever it is conservatives are unhappy about now.

But the White House's defense of the economic initiative happens to be true -- whether the truth is popular or not.

The massive economic stimulus package President Obama pushed through Congress last year is coming in on time and under budget -- and with strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse -- according to a White House report to be released Friday.

Coming barely a month before November's midterm elections, which will determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress, the report challenges public perceptions of the stimulus aid as slow-moving and wasteful -- an image that has fueled voter anger with the dominant party. Even some former skeptics who predicted that the money would lead to rampant abuse now acknowledge that the program could serve as a model for improving efficiency in government.

It's frustrating to realize just how backwards so many of the complaints have been from the right. Conservatives think stimulus investments were ripe with abuse, but "stimulus contracts and grants have so far been relatively free of the fraud charges that plague more routine government spending programs." They think the effort was too slow, but the administration "met nearly a dozen deadlines set by Congress for getting money out the door."

Conservatives are convinced it failed to serve its intended purpose, but the Recovery Act appears to be "on track to meet the administration's goal of preserving 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year."

The right likes to make the case that this was also bad for the country over the long-run, but that's backwards, too: "[W]ithin the confines of that stimulus, the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress managed to make a host of long-term investments that would've been considered huge accomplishments in any other context, but are largely unknown inside this one. Huge investments in green energy, in health information technology, in high-speed rail, in universal broadband, in medical research, in infrastructure. The Making Work Pay tax cut. The Race to the Top education reform program."

Of particular interest in this new report is just how effective oversight has been in preventing wasteful spending:

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors, said the unprecedented focus on oversight clearly paid off and should be analyzed for lessons that could be applied throughout the government.

"Given the ambitious nature of the stimulus, the fact that things have gone relatively smoothly suggests that they did put appropriate and adequate resources" into program oversight, said Soloway, an early skeptic of the package. "They definitely deserve credit for that," he said.

Of course, with weak economic growth and an unemployment crisis, applauding the Recovery Act seems unsatisfying. Had it been bigger, its benefits (and popularity) would have been far greater. Its limited scope was a costly mistake, as were some of the overly-optimistic predictions from early last year.

That said, the stimulus still happens to be one of the more successful governmental accomplishments of this generation, popular opinion notwithstanding.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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"Given the ambitious nature of the stimulus, the fact that things have gone relatively smoothly suggests that they did put appropriate and adequate resources" into program oversight, said Soloway, an early skeptic of the package.

clearly that is why conservatives don't like the stimulus package. they weren't able to siphon off millions of dollars and direct them to their lobbyists and corporate masters.

Posted by: just bill on October 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

If the rich can't get richer from the stimulus, it's bad for the country.

Posted by: qwerty on October 1, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

This will get almost no coverage from the mainstream media. Instead of reporting the facts and real results of the stimulus and the bailouts of the auto industry and AIG, they are more interested in the inflammatory language and behavior of the uninformed tea partiers and the lying GOP.

Posted by: doyles on October 1, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

And the White House really needs to get some intelligence in their communication department: right off the bat in that quote they refer to it as "massive" -- well, it wasn't. That's the problem -- it wasn't big enough. So right there the Obama administration pisses off both groups -- those who say it went too far and those who say it didn't.

The stupidity is really getting to me.

Posted by: karen marie on October 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

I live in a rural area with limited broadband access limited to satellite only with extremely high prices for higher speeds. $50 per month for dial up speed is ridiculous. Both DirecTV and Hughsnet have received stimulus funds to update satellites for increased data transmission. These hicks are against their own self interests and are content with slow speed internet service and want their country back to at least 15 years ago regarding internet service.

Posted by: flyonthewall on October 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

To those who are consistently nit-picking the president on policy decisions, this should serve as a reminder of the biggest and perhaps most important difference between this administration and the last: a minimal level of competence in the administration of government.

Posted by: Jon on October 1, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Nice news. Now expect a barrage of outrageous disinformation from the right wing Ministry of Propaganda to try and discredit it. And the so-called "liberal media" will do their usual "evenhandedness" dance.

Posted by: Rasputin22 on October 1, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

So with Rahm and Summers leaving, do you think Obama will start listening to Paul Krugman? The guy's been on the mark since Day 1.

I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Jon! Can you imagine if the stimulus had been enacted under W.?

Posted by: Kevin Ray on October 1, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Matters not the truth if have Wurlitzer your adversaries and you a Casio.

Posted by: RP on October 1, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

"whether the truth is popular or not."


What an indictment of the fucking stupidity and delusional nature of the USA ......... and such an affirmation of what the former communications director of Bush's White House said .. 'reality is what we say it is' .... the 'truth' simply does not matter anymore in The United States of Stupid ...

Posted by: stormskies on October 1, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The agency I work for, which is somewhat notorious for being slow to obligate money allocated from Congress, just finished obligating 5 times the normal quantity of private construction related contracts in the same amount of time. This came about because stimulus rules and regulations forced us into find new, more efficient methods of working together with private industry. We will incorporate those same practices for the future even when we are back to the normal rate of allocations and hopefully we will be trusted with more money - but I'm not counting on it if the Republicans take control.

By the way, we also created more than 50,000 jobs with that money at the same time. Don't expect that good news to get much traction in the "liberal press."

Posted by: Vandal on October 1, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

bdop4, Krugman isn't perfect. He wanted to nationalize the banks, which may well have been a disaster.

Posted by: JD on October 1, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

this sounds great, but if this report was produced by the VP's office, it surely will be perceived as biased. Wouldn't a GAO report be more credible?

Posted by: bruce k on October 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Vandal -- the media doesn't create messaging, the parties do (or at least the Republicans do, Democrats inexplicably don't get it). If there is no effective messaging coming out of the Democratic Party (see use of the word "massive"), you're not going to read about it in the newspaper.

Very little of today's journalism is based on research, it's based on press releases.

The failure at this point is less with the media (it is what it is) and more with the fucking morons running communications in the Democratic Party.

Posted by: karen marie on October 1, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

The tax cuts and credits in the stimulus saved us enough in taxes to pay for our recent vacation to DC, and I told my Dem senator as much and thanked him for voting for the bill when we were there. (And we further "stimulated" the economy by spending the money rather than saving it.)

Perhaps some of these reluctant legislators need to hear from those who got the cuts, or were able to keep their jobs, etc., and that would get them a little braver at talking up the benefits of the bill?

Posted by: Hannah on October 1, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Rife with abuse. Not ripe.

Ripe for criticism. Rife with abuse.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on October 1, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK



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