Happy second birthday American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka “the “stimulus”)! Let’s see if your second year was better than your first…
Timeliness. Lawmakers promised the stimulus would have a very quick impact on the economy. Then-House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), in an MSNBC interview on Feb. 11, 2009, said improvements would been seen in as little as a week: “If we pass this package by Friday afternoon, I’m convinced that by Friday next week, you’ll begin to see some positive stuff coming out of it…”
Grade: C-. At the two-year mark, only 78.7 percent ($619.1 billion) of the stimulus funds had been paid out (90 percent of the tax benefits; 80 percent of the entitlements; and 65 percent of the contracts, grants and loans).
Since the stimulus was supposed to be a two-year program, we have to give an “F” for timeliness.
Unemployment. In selling the stimulus, former White House senior advisor David Axelrod said told NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Feb. 15, 2009, “[W]ithout it that’s where we were looking — double-digit unemployment …” The jobless rate was 8.2 percent at the time. And on MSNBC on Feb. 12, 2009, And former Director of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer said the President’s goal for the stimulus was to create 3 million to 4 million jobs.
Grade: D. Since the bill was signed in February 2009, the U.S. has lost a net total of nearly 2.6 million jobs (the country has lost jobs in 16 of the 23 months since the stimulus was enacted). The unemployment rate hit 10.1 percent in October 2009, but has remained under 10 percent since then (it was 9 percent in January 2011). In 2009 the White House released a paper outlining the number of jobs that would be created or saved in each state. In the last year, 42 states have added jobs. To compare the predictions to the current statistics on job creation in your state, click here.
Transparency. As a spending package that ranks among the all-time largest budget items, Americans were promised the stimulus would be “transparent and accountable.” The administration even built a slick website to help track the funds.
Grade: C-. Not much has changed here. The White House’s website is still up and running.
Preventing Waste. At the bill’s signing ceremony, President Obama said, “With a recovery package of this size comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they work so hard to earn.” So he put Vice President Biden in charge of combating stimulus waste.
Grade: D. We’re going to let one fact speak for itself here. In November 2010, the panel in charge of rooting out waste and fraud in the stimulus held a meeting on its assigned topic…at the super luxurious Ritz Carlton resort in Phoenix, Ariz. At a time when Americans are still canceling family vacations to make ends meet, and when the federal government was running a $1.3 trillion deficit, this is hardly prudent.