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]

“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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BREAKING: Rep. Parker Griffith (D-AL) Switching Parties (UPDATED X3)

From Politico:

How much of a difference will this make for the House?

As it turns out, not much:

While the timing of his announcement was unexpected, Griffith’s party switch will not come as a surprise to those familiar with his voting record, which is one of the most conservative among Democrats.

He has bucked the Democratic leadership on nearly all of its major domestic initiatives, including the stimulus package, health care legislation, the cap-and trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.

He was one of only 11 House Democrats to vote against the stimulus.

[Emphasis mine]

Goodbye and good riddance, Rep. Griffith. Enjoy being part of the ineffectual, impotent Republican minority.

UPDATE: My question is, will Griffith be able to win reelection as a Republican?

I’ll let the electoral history of Alabama’s 5th Congressional district speak for itself:

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Finally, A Revelation (UPDATED)

Congressional Democrats come to their senses:

At the same time, Democrats say the apparently unbridgeable health care divide has convinced them that Republicans are dedicated solely to blocking legislative proposals for political purposes. Several said they now realized that they would have to rely strictly on their own caucus to advance such defining issues as climate change in 2010.

“We have crossed the mark of over 100 filibusters and acts of procedural obstruction in less than one year,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said on the floor Sunday. “Never since the founding of the Republic, not even in the bitter sentiments preceding Civil War, was such a thing ever seen in this body.”

[Emphasis mine]

That’s a lesson the Democrats should have learned after the economic stimulus package, where they made concession after concession and bent over backwards to placate the GOP, yet won over only 3 out of the 219 Republicans in Congress.

The Republicans are not interested in governing this country. The GOP is only interested in scoring political points; they don’t care how much damage they cause as long as they can conceivably spin things in their favor.

The Democrats are the majority. The GOP knows that if they can obfuscate, obstruct, and effectively throw a wrench into the works of our government then they can turn around and portray the Democratic majority as impotent.

I would love to live in a country with a vibrant two-party system, where the right and left can sit down, negotiate in good faith and construct good, productive legislation that makes both sides happy.

Unfortunately, the GOP has pledged themselves wholeheartedly to obstructionism and hyperpartisanship, meaning that every time the Democrats sit down and try to work with the GOP they’re effectively pounding nails into their own political coffin.

The Democrats have the White House and sizable majorities in both houses of Congress.  They should focus on winning over conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson–winning over Republicans shouldn’t be a concern at this point.

The GOP had their chance but they blew it, proving themselves unable and unwilling to govern. Until Republicans show that they’re capable of working in good faith toward good legislation, winning Republican votes shouldn’t even be an afterthought for Democratic lawmakers.

UPDATE: From the above New York Times article:

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More Proof That The Stimulus Worked

Politico reports:

Between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs were created or saved through September as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a Congressional Budget Office report.

The data, released Monday, say the real inflation-adjusted gross domestic product was 1.2 percent to 3.2 percent higher than it would have been had the $787 billion stimulus package not passed in February. Also, the stimulus lowered the unemployment by between 0.3 and 0.9 percentage points, according to the report.

[…]

CBO also estimates that the stimulus upped federal spending by $100 billion while cutting tax revenue by $90 billion, according to Bloomberg.

[Emphasis mine]

Or, to put it another way, the 214 Congressional Republicans who voted against the stimulus voted for fewer jobs, a lower GDP, higher unemployment and higher taxes.

With priorities like those, I can’t imagine why anyone would vote to give the GOP the majority again anytime soon.

Strange Bedfellows: Cato Puts Obama’s Spending In Perspective

From my libertarian friends over at Cato:

I’m a big fan of criticizing Obama’s profligacy, but it is inaccurate and/or dishonest to blame him for Bush’s mistakes. At the risk of repeating my earlier post, the 2009 fiscal year began on October 1, 2008, and the vast majority of the spending for that year was the result of Bush Administration policies. Yes, Obama did add to the waste with the so-called stimulus, the omnibus appropriation, the CHIP bill, and the cash-for-clunkers nonsense, but as the chart illustrates, these boondoggles only amounted to just a tiny percentage of the FY2009 total — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget.

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