White House stimulus report shows Recovery Act worked as planned
The economic stimulus package is a success, according to a White House stimulus report submitted Friday. Yet it has failed politically. Most economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been well managed, well executed and prevented the economy from getting worse. But the slow recovery and high unemployment have disillusioned the public and given Republicans the talking point of a “failed stimulus.”
Recovery Act meets original deadline
The economic stimulus package was instituted in Feburary 2009. The Washington Post reports that at the time an average of 750,000 jobs a month were disappearing. The administration promised to deploy 70 percent of the stimulus in 18 months. The White House stimulus report shows that deadline has been met. Of $787 billion, $551 billion has been allocated to tax breaks for families and businesses and payments to states, unemployed workers and others victimized by the recession. An additional $127 billion has been committed. Republican predictions of massive stimulus fraud proved unfounded. Criminal investigations involve just 0.2 percent of all contracts.
Stimulus fraud kept to bare minimum
The economic stimulus package has been overseen by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. TIME reports that the board uses computer algorithms to track suspicious spending patterns. Earl Devaney, leader of the board, told TIME “you’d be crazy to steal from the Recovery Act; it’s way too transparent, with every dollar traceable at www.recovery.gov, and there are way too many eyes on it.” But TIME said transparency has had a political cost. Republican senators have branded projects as wasteful, such as $18,500 to paint a mural in Montana.
Stimulus politics ignore reality
The stimulus created 3.5 million jobs and kept unemployment about 1 to 2 percent lower than it would have been, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Keven Drum at Mother Jones said the results are an example of good policy taken seriously. Yet Drum writes that the stimulus also shows how little most people care about good policy and competent execution. Today nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Recovery Act was a bust. This is because the administration predicted the stimulus would reduce unemployment to 8 percent. If it had predicted more accurately unemployment at 11.5 percent without the stimulus and less than 10 percent with it, political talking points about a “failed stimulus” probably wouldn’t exist.