The Recovery Act: One Year Later (UPDATED X2)

A year ago today, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–also known as the economic stimulus package–went into effect.

And here’s all you need to know about it:

[Click for full-sized version]

But, what the heck, here’s some more info, just for kicks:

Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.

[Emphasis mine]

We know now that the right’s the-stimulus-has-failed touchdown dance was more than a little premature–while GOP was spiking the ball at the 5 yard line, President Obama and the Democrats were creating 2.5 million new jobs.

Yes, unemployment is still high. Yes, there aren’t enough jobs out there yet. But nobody can dispute now that the Recovery Act has put us back on the right track and has kept millions of Americans off of the unemployment lines–something that never would have happened if the Republicans had their way.

UPDATE: In their typical dishonest fashion, some conservatives are pointing out that the unemployment rate when Obama took office was 7.7% and that it now stands at 9.7%.

I mean, I’m glad they’re finally acknowledging that President Obama inherited much of our economic troubles from his predecessor, but they’re missing the point.  The recovery act was intended to staunch the bleeding, to prevent a massive recession from turning into a massive depression, not to significantly reduce unemployment–it’s  likely that no one bill could have done that.

So yes, unemployment is still high–but it would have been much higher if the GOP had their way and we did nothing. And had Congress listened to progressives and passed a larger stimulus package, I imagine that unemployment would be lower today.

UPDATE II: You know how you can tell that the recovery act worked?

Because the very Republicans who railed against it–and voted against it–are now trying to take credit for it:

Ah, hypocrisy.

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GDP Grew 5.7% In 4th Quarter Of 2009

From the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

The White House puts this in context:

The data show that the total output of the U.S. economy increased strongly in the fourth quarter of 2009.  Real GDP (that is, GDP adjusted for inflation) increased at an annual rate of 5.7 percent.  The change from the first quarter of 2009, when GDP fell at an annual rate of 6.4 percent, is truly extraordinary; indeed, the three-quarter swing in growth rates was the largest since 1981.

[…]

[Click for larger]

This is, undeniably, good news for the country and the American people.

But this is particularly good news for President Obama and Congressional Democrats, since it shows that their economic policies are working.  We’ll still have to wait and see how employment fares–since employment is a lagging indicator–but this much GDP growth is a good sign.

On the other hand, this is particularly bad news for Republicans, since they’re relying on continued economic stagnation to help them in the upcoming midterm elections. If Obama and the Democrats turn out to have been right and the economy continues to improve, then I don’t see what the Republicans are going to run on.

Dissatisfaction will only take you so far–if people stop being dissatisfied then Republicans are going to have to come up with actual policies to run on.

[All emphasis mine]

The Freeze

Last night, the Obama administration announced that they’re going to freeze non-security discretionary spending between 2011 and 2013:

On a conference call last night, the administration announced that its upcoming budget would freeze non-security discretionary spending between 2011 and 2013. That’s like freezing non-defense discretionary spending, but it also exempts the Department of Homeland Security and the Veteran’s Administration from the cuts. Education, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and pretty much everything else that’s not Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security can be knifed.

The devil is in the details here–I can’t really form a strong opinion on the freeze until I know which programs are going to end up under the knife.

My biggest concern is that, if the government can’t spend then they can’t create jobs. Unless December was an aberration and January is a banner month for job growth, we’re going to need to pass a jobs bill in order to bring down unemployment.

Thus, with the freeze in place we run the risk of a double-dip recession–if we need to spend money to keep the economy growing, but can’t because of the freeze, the recession is going to worsen again. If that happens, Obama will be blamed and he will deserve it.

From a political perspective, I can’t really see what the administration gains from this. Conservatives aren’t going to rally around Obama because of this–in fact, they’re already mocking him.

Independents may care about getting the deficit under control, but they probably care more about jobs and unemployment. So, if the freeze causes the recession to worsen again, Obama will end up bleeding even more support.

This strikes me as a gimmicky gamble with a high risk of failure. And, as Brad DeLong points out, Obama didn’t even get anything in exchange for the freeze:

As another deficit-hawk points out: it would be one thing to offer a short-term discretionary spending freeze (or long-run entitlement caps) in return for fifteen Republican senators signing on to revenue enhancement triggers. It’s quite another to negotiate against yourself and in addition attack employment in the short term.

[All emphasis mine]

MA-SEN: Everything Hangs In The Balance

The last best hope

Today, everything hangs in the balance.

If Martha Coakley loses today’s special election in Massachusetts, the entire Democratic reform agenda will be jeopardized.

Health care reform–which will provide care to 31 million uninsured Americans, help the middle class buy health insurance with subsidies, and lower the deficit–will not happen.

President Obama’s plan to recoup TARP money–taxpayer money, our money–from the big Wall Street banks will not happen.

Financial regulatory reform–designed to prevent the next major economic collapse–will not happen.

A jobs bill–which will put millions of unemployed Americans back to work–will not happen.

The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t tell’ will not happen.

These and other important reforms will. not. happen.

It’s hard enough for Democrats to govern as it is, with the constant threat of Republican filibusters hanging over Congress like the sword of Damocles.

If the GOP wins today, governing this country will become downright impossible.

The right-wing obstructionists will rule the day; the United States Congress will be paralyzed.  Nothing will get done, nothing will get fixed; our country will remain severely damaged and in need of repair.

Progress is slow. I understand at, and I understand the frustration with the Democrats–I understand that people want everything fixed, now, today. But progress takes time–there’s still a lot of work left to be done.

Giving the Republicans power again will only move us bbck toward the right-wing mismanagement which put us here in the first place.  If someone runs your car into a ditch you don’t give them the keys again–you turn to someone else to get you out. It’s common sense.

Politics didn’t start on January 20, 2009–we all remember exactly how we got here. You want America to get out of the ditch we were driven into? Then don’t give the keys back to the folks who put us here in the first place. Keep the Democrats in power. Vote for Martha Coakley.

If you live in Massachusetts get out and vote today. And if you know someone who lives in MA, tell them to go out and vote, too. We can’t afford to take anything for granted.

Because everything hangs in the balance.

[You can find your polling place here]

“If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Till It Is”

My father–a career-long civil servant–used to joke that the federal government’s motto should be “if it ain’t broke, fix it till it is.”

That may not be the government’s motto, but it’s certainly the GOP credo.

We know that President Obama’s economic policies are working–the stimulus stimulated, the recession ended, the employment situation is improving.

And yet, conservatives want to end those successful policies–they want to cut off the unspent stimulus money instead of letting it go toward creating new jobs, they want to end deficit spending even though growing the economy is a far more pressing concern than the debt.

If we listen to conservatives our economy will collapse once again and all the hard-fought gains our economy recently made will be lost.

As Paul Krugman writes:

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‘Will You Repeal It?’ (UPDATED x2)

That’s the question that should be asked of every single Republican who tries to run against health care reform in 2010.

Demagoging against the bill is one thing but actually pledging to repeal it is another; no Republican should be allowed to do the former without being asked whether or not they will do the latter.

The health care reform bill isn’t perfect, but it has a number of fundamentally good policies that will help tens of millions of Americans.

Health care reform will stop insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions. Do the Republicans want to repeal that?

Health care reform will reduce the deficit by more than $130 billion in the first decade and even more in subsequent decades. Do the Republicans want to repeal that?

Health care reform will provide middle class individuals and families with subsidies to help them buy health insurance. Do the Republicans want to repeal that?

Health care reform will provide coverage to 31 million Americans who currently lack it. Do the Republicans want to repeal that?

Will any Republican actually stand up and say they want to do so much damage to America’s middle class by repealing health care reform?

I think that ‘will you repeal it?’ puts the GOP between a rock and a hard place–the rock of wanting to oppose the Democratic health care reform plan but the hard place of not wanting to scrap policies that will help so many middle class Americans.

So any Democrat who worries that their support for health care reform may hurt hem in 2010 should just keep four words on the tip of their tongue: ‘will you repeal it?’

UPDATE: The Huffington Post reports on the perils Republicans will face if they run on repealing the bill:

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Senate Passes Health Care Reform

Sorry for the late posting; I spent much of today traveling.  It is the season, after all.

Anyway, as expected, the Senate passed the health care reform bill early this morning.

The 60-39 vote exactly mirrored last night’s cloture vote; once again, Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was the single absentee Senator.

Now the House and Senate versions of the bill will have to be reconciled in a conference committee, and then that bill will have to be passed by both houses of Congress.

Unsurprisingly, the GOP is still trying to delay the final passage of the bill–Roll Call reports that they’re blocking Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempts to name the Senators who will sit on the conference committee.

Because of the GOP’s obstructionism and delay tactics, the debate over health care reform has become the second-longest debate in American history–the 25-day-long debate on health care reform is only surpassed by the 26-day-long debate on whether or not to enter World War I.

Some Republican Senators, though, seem to be throwing in the obstructionism towel–as James Inhofe, the absentee Senator on the last two major health care vote, recently said:

“I can assure you the vast majority of the [Republican] conference was on my side saying we’ve had all the fun we’re going to have.”

Hopefully more of Inhofe’s colleagues will see the light.

31 million Americans who currently lack coverage will receive it because of this bill. Our deficit will be reduced by more than $130 billion in the first ten years alone. Millions of people will get federal subsidies to help them purchase better health care coverage.

Merry Christmas, America.