Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Stimulus Success Story

The New York Times has a tough-to-beat editorial on the economic stimulus package passed by Democrats five years ago to stem the effects of the Republican recession that started in 2008.  Pardon us for the lengthy excerpt, but it is well worth it to get a full picture:
Of all the myths and falsehoods that Republicans have spread about President Obama, the most pernicious and long-lasting is that the $832 billion stimulus package did not work. Since 2009, Republican lawmakers have inextricably linked the words “failed” and “stimulus,” and last week, five years after passage of the Recovery Act, they dusted off their old playbook again. 
“The ‘stimulus’ has turned out to be a classic case of big promises and big spending with little results,” wrote Speaker John Boehner. “Five years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, millions of families are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’” 
The stimulus could have done more good had it been bigger and more carefully constructed. But put simply, it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression. It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. (There are the jobs, Mr. Boehner.) It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010. 
And yet Republicans were successful in discrediting the very idea that federal spending can boost the economy and raise employment. They made the argument that the stimulus was a failure not just to ensure that Mr. Obama would get no credit for the recovery that did occur, but to justify their obstruction of all further attempts at stimulus. 
So the American Jobs Act was killed, and so was the infrastructure bank and any number of other spending proposals that might have helped the country. The president’s plan to spend another $56 billion on job training, education and energy efficiency, to be unveiled in his budget next month, will almost certainly suffer a similar fate. 
This may be the singular tragedy of the Obama administration. Five years later, it is clear to all fair-minded economists that the stimulus did work, and that it did enormous good for the economy and for tens of millions of people. But because it fell short of its goals, and was roundly ridiculed by Republicans and inadequately defended by Democrats, who should have trumpeted its success, the president’s stimulus plan is now widely considered a stumble.  (our emphasis)
The editorial rightly puts some of the blame on cowering Democratic officeholders, many of whom went into a defensive crouch at the first volley from the right.  But, there's another culprit that bears a lot of the blame in making sure the lies propagated by Republicans gained currency:  the "mainstream media."  Had the media been doing its job (and not standing by as casual, fact-averse observers = cough = ChuckTodd = cough = ), "Mr. Tangerine Man" Boehner would not be able to get away with the transparent hypocrisy of asking "where are the jobs?"  But they didn't, and to the extent the stimulus is still being reported as a "he said, she said" controversy even today, they won't.

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