Break out the bubbly … or not.
Thursday, Feb. 17, marked the second anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For the occasion, various camps inside the Beltway gave their reflections on the $787 billion piece of legislation intended to shore up the collapsing economy. Needless to say, there's quite a sweeping range of thought.
Representing the GOP, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wrote a scathing Washington Times op-ed dismissing ARRA as having done zilch to help the economy. "What has been the result of nearly $1 trillion spent on the so-called stimulus?" he wrote. "Twenty-one months of unemployment at or above 9 percent, 2.6 million jobs lost, unsustainable budget deficits and an ever growing national debt."
Yet according to new think-tank analyses, from the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Economic Policy Institute, the stimulus act worked. The CLASP report applauded the Recovery Act's subsidized jobs program, which used $1.3 billion to create opportunities for hard-to-employ workers with limited education or criminal records. The report found that the program placed more than 260,000 low-income workers in private sector jobs, in positions ranging from administrative, sales, construction, customer service and health care.
The EPI breakdown considered the economy's extremely dire straits when Obama first took office (including a loss of 750,000 jobs per month). "With unemployment at 9.7 percent today, it's hard to appreciate how much more damage the stimulus investments prevented," said EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey, who posited that the unemployment rate would have been significantly worse without the Recovery Act.
Faint praise, for sure, but most economists agree that the stimulus "worked" in terms of averting a financial meltdown — stabilized markets and GDP growth, for example. But without enough new jobs created to offset unemployment, it's hardly anything to get excited about. And prospects of improvement are slim, if House Speaker John Boehner's style is any indication.
At a press conference this week, Boehner was asked about federal employees potentially losing their jobs if House Republicans achieve their plan to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending this year. Boehner took a "That's the breaks" approach.
"If some of those jobs are lost, so be it," he said. "We're broke."