Just what did President Obama’s stimulus package actually stimulate? It seems that the Democrats don’t agree or even really know.
When former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh recently announced his abrupt retirement from the senate, he quipped, “If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) claimed when he took office that the stimulus package had not created a single job. He was rebuffed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who said Brown had no basis for such a judgment.
On Wednesday President Obama and Vice-President Biden sang their praises of the stimulus bill, noting that the economy has recovered from shrinking 6 percent to growing 6 percent within the past year, and 2 million jobs have been created for Americans who would otherwise be unemployed.
But with America suffering sustained unemployment around 10% - and far more than that in certain states – the effect of the stimulus seems to have been not only temporary but very short-lived.
Right now, the Democrats are already pushing another stimulus bill - calling it a jobs bill - which will cost anywhere from $10 to $80 billion. Or more.
Dr. Christina Romer, Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, stated in congressional testimony in October that “most analysts predict” that the stimulus bill would have its greatest economic impact in the second and third quarters of 2009, and that by the middle of 2010, the stimulus would probably contribute little to economic growth.
However, when asked Wednesday morning whether or not the “biggest bang” of the stimulus bill was in the past, she answered “absolutely not.” But which is it?
And on the other side of the aisle, Senate and House Republicans have decried the stimulus bill as an expensive failure, pointing to 10 percent unemployment, massive spending, and the fact that 4 million Americans have lost work within the past year.
“One year later, one thing is clear: the stimulus bill has failed,” stated Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). “Not one net job has been created as unemployment rose from 7.6 percent to nearly 10 percent nationwide. Mr. President, millions of Americans are asking, ‘where are the jobs?’”
So is there a way to figure out just what the effects, good or bad, the stimulus bill has had on the American economy?
Reports by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and ProPublica, an independent non-profit newsroom specializing in investigative journalism, show that the numbers for jobs that could have been created by the stimulus may in fact be greater; however, many of the jobs created will have been temporary.
“More people could have been employed,” ProPublica reported in October of the CBO’s report on jobs created by the stimulus bill, “but the data don’t tell you if their jobs lasted two days or will last two years.”
The report in September from the CBO that 640,000 jobs had been created at the time from the stimulus bill was collected from a sum of reports from localities and businesses. That number could be as high as 1.6 million, the report continues.
However, as an example, many of the jobs from one of the top job-creators, Teletech Government Solutions, lasted less than five weeks.
“Recipients report that about 640,000 jobs were created or retained with ARRA funding through September, 2009,” states a November, 2009 CBO report. “Such reports, however, do not provide a comprehensive estimate of the law’s impact on employment in the United States. That impact may be higher or lower than the reported number for several reasons (in addition to any issues about the quality of the data in the reports.)
“CBO estimates that in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, an additional 600,000 to 1.6 million people were employed in the United States, and real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.2 percent to 3.2 percent higher than would have been the case in the absence of ARRA.
So in effect, the number of jobs created may have been higher. However, many of them may also be temporary jobs, lasting mere weeks.
However, another question many critics have raised is one of waste, of how much money has been wasted on fraudulent recipients or ineffective programs?
The USA Today reported Wednesday that over $3.5 billion of the stimulus money is going to programs that President Obama now wishes to be rid of or trim down in the new budget.
The offices of Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a report of 12 expenditures from the stimulus bill dubbed the “12 Spending Lowlights.” The list includes:
• A $67,726 federal grant to a casino outside the city of Green Bay, Wisc., to send employees to a local customer service seminar.
• A $4 million allocation from the FHA to construct a 2.66 mile bike trail in Massachusetts.
• $390,000 in stimulus funds for SUNY-Buffalo to conduct a study on the relationship between drinking malt liquor and using marijuana.
• $3.4 million to build a passage for turtles and other animals under a state highway in Jackson Lake, Fla.