Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 26, 2010

STIMULUS FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS.... There's ample evidence that the public, in general, believes last year's Recovery Act was ineffective. Actual analyses paint a far different picture.

The massive U.S. stimulus package, widely viewed by voters to be ineffective, put 1.4 million to 3.6 million people to work between July and September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also boosted national output by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent during that period, CBO said in its latest estimate.

CBO's estimates have consistently shown that the $814 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, construction spending and enhanced safety-net provisions has blunted the impact of the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s.

President Obama noted a couple of weeks ago, "The hardest argument to make in politics is, things would have been a lot worse if we hadn't done all those taken all these steps." Agreed, it is an awfully difficult argument -- people recognize the conditions in front of them, not the hypothetical circumstances on the road not traveled.

That said, those other circumstances are not a mystery. The unemployment rate is 9.6%, but without the Recovery Act, the Congressional Budget Office concluded it could have been as high as 11.6% right now. The economy grew at 2.5% in the last quarter, but in the absence of the stimulus, the CBO found that the economy likely would still be shrinking.

All told, as many as 3.6 million Americans have jobs right now, who would otherwise be out of work, thanks to the maligned Recovery Act.

House Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) insisted the other day that a top Republican priority next year will be identifying $12 billion in remaining stimulus funds and, instead of injecting it into the economy, ensuring that the money isn't spent at all.

How would that help the economy? Lewis didn't say.

Steve Benen 11:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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He didn't say because he doesn't care. Republicans are determined to wreck the economy.

Posted by: Mike on November 26, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Stimulus Facts are Stubborn things

Facts may be stubborn things, but they don't matter in today's media environment. I just hope Obama realizes that he is in a propaganda war, where competence and accomplishment don't matter so much as whose message dominates and resonates with the public. he's a smart, high-energy guy; he should apply some of that acumen and energy to making his message become THE message.

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 26, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Intelligent people (Obama and his henchmen, for example) forget to factor in the abject stupidity of the American People.

For example: They remember the check that Bush sent them in the mail, but not the extra bucks in their weekly paychecks that were the "tax cut" part of the stimulus bill.

Like training a mule, every so often you have to smack them upside the head with a two by four, just to get their attention. Americans don't do nuance.

Posted by: DAY on November 26, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

A few months ago I told Tim Kaine to push that "Bikini graph" and try to romance the Stimulus. In a healthier society with a legitimate, Cronkite-style media complex it would have gotten around more. You can argue whether Dems tried hard enough but the media don't pick up enough, that is the main problem and we need less back-biting here and elsewhere or we'll never get ahead.

Posted by: Neil B on November 26, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

There's ample evidence that the public, in general, believes last year's Recovery Act was ineffective

Golly, I can't imagine why the public would think THAT!

Posted by: ckely on November 26, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Like training a mule, every so often you have to smack them upside the head with a two by four, just to get their attention. Americans don't do nuance.

Oh I have a feeling the 2011 Congress and its resulting 2x4 policies will do this just fine.

Posted by: ckelly on November 26, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Remembering ours is a society that truly believes and wants, More.Better.Now, President Obama would do well to begin (now that he's behind) an articulate way to sell his as a More.Better.Now program by showing the lack of any serious alternative Republican strategy or set of policy-proposals they have to address our economic woes.

Obama would also do well to listen to Krugman and other economists who know what they are talking about! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 26, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

In a culture built on instant gratification, the idea that one has to wait for anything is anathema. Consequently, long-term trends and incremental improvements get overlooked because they don't completely address immediate needs. Of course the public isn't thrilled with the rate of recovery: BHO didn't snap his fingers and magically make all their pain go away. We've had too much flash-over-substance governing for the heavy lifting of rebuilding an economy to be particularly glamorous, and the public has been trained to expect the glamour.

I expect that should the GOP's stated aims become policy realities, things will change quickly enough that even the ones whining that the recovery didn't do enough will take notice.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on November 26, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh I have a feeling the 2011 Congress and its resulting 2x4 policies will do this just fine." -ckelly

-Which will result in a Democratic landslide in 2012. Campaign theme: "Return to Sanity!"

Posted by: DAY on November 26, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is, bring up the CBO in a conversation with ANY conservative and they've got a slew of "facts" they've been fed to completely discredit it. They actually believe that Bush did the smart thing by launching a war and reorganizing Medicare without consulting the CBO. "Didn't you know? The 'C' in 'CBO' stands for 'communist!' Hannity says so!"

So, keep your stubborn facts about the success of the Stimulus. To conservatives, the data they're offering up might as well come from one of them scientists.

Posted by: chrenson on November 26, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

$344,000 per job, huh? Heckuva job, Barry!

Oh, and:

Journalist: "If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis, right?"

Elmendorf: "That's right. That's right."

Posted by: a on November 26, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I vaguely remember a State of the Union address Bill Clinton gave one time where he mentioned the CBO and taxes. Of course the repubs cracked up, but I can remember his answer and it always kinda stuck with me for some reason.
I may have a word or two wrong, but it was along these lines. He said: "You may well laugh, but they (CBO) have been right. And they have been right all along."
The laughter stopped and you could have heard a pin drop while those repubs pouted like no five year old ever has. I loved it. Too bad the voters of America couldn't remember stuff like this instead of "death panels".

Posted by: Schtick on November 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Of COURSE people don't think the stimulus worked. The unemployed still don't have jobs, people with jobs aren't seeing raises to match the rise in prices, an awful lot of homeowners are still hanging on by their fingernails, education costs are still rising sharply, businesses can't get customers or business loans, and on and on and on. In brief, MOST of the economy is still in a bad recession.

And meanwhile, the financial sector is raking in profits, all the TV talking heads are assuring everyone that things are growing and that we're out of the recession, and the important thing to do now is cut back on the few remaining lifelines because otherwise "the market" might get upset.

News flash: the Murkin Peepul aren't all THAT dumb when it comes to seeing the reality of their day-to-day economic situation, whatever the Serious People with their Very Nice Salaries say.

And if the Democrats weren't as much in bed with the banksters as the Republicans, they'd take this issue and run with it. But I'm sure not gonna hold my breath waiting for THAT to happen.

Posted by: bleh on November 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

"How would that help the economy? Lewis didn't say."

Probably because nobody ask the question. My wish for the new congress is the press actually ask questions and then push for answers.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 26, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Oh please do, Jerry Lewis. Please shut down the major highway expansion in my area (Darrell Issa's district) which is about 1/4 completed now, and is only being done because of the Stimulus bill.

Posted by: Speed on November 26, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing that the Obama administration has not used these facts to sway the masses. Even though our economy is in the toilet, Americans should be able to realize that we could be far worse off then we are now, but are blinded by the discomforts of the now. We have become spoiled with our lives and don't take in to account of what could have been.

Posted by: Shani Burton on November 26, 2010 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK



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