The GOP and the Stimulus Bust
The stimulus was a missed opportunity, and one that Republicans may now see as a juicy political opening.
May 14, 2009 - 12:05 am
Republicans opposed the president’s stimulus plan en masse, arguing it would do little to stem unemployment and revive the economy, while worsening the flood of red ink gushing from the federal coffers. Little did they know how correct they would be.
The New York Times reports:
Nearly three months after President Obama approved a $787 billion economic stimulus package, intended to create or save jobs, the federal government has paid out less than 6 percent of the money, largely in the form of social service payments to states. Although administration officials say the program is right on schedule, they have actually spent relatively little so far.
[. . .]
The intent of the stimulus program was to pump money into the economy quickly, and many members of Congress said at the time of its passage that speed was of the essence. But the huge program has been a challenge to administer for both a new administration and for states and local governments grappling with their own fiscal problems.
Some states and cities are beginning to complain that the money has yet to reach them. Others have been slow to get their paperwork to Washington; Virginia has yet to send the Transportation Department its list of road projects. At the same time, some economists have questioned the administration’s claims that the bill has saved or created 150,000 jobs.
The stimulus isn’t very stimulating because so little has been spent. Only $11 million has gone out the door on highway projects. It is no wonder that a top Democrat is now acknowledging that the stimulus was “oversold.” (“A spokesman for Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, who leads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says the White House shouldn’t have billed road money as the signature component of the stimulus, or as a surefire boost to needy communities.”) But there was plenty of money, $800,000 to be exact, to pay for an addition to the airport in Rep. John Murtha’s home town.
But the main purpose of the stimulus — job creation — is unfulfilled. Indeed, the economy is hemorrhaging jobs. The unemployment rate is now 8.9% and is expect to hit double digits with no prospect of job growth until 2010. That’s a far cry from what the administration was peddling in January, when Christina Romer released a report claiming that the stimulus was needed to keep unemployment at or below 8%.