Washington wishes the stimulus a happy (and horrid) fifth birthday

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — better known as "the stimulus" — which President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. Politicians, pundits and economists have begun writing birthday missives for the legislation, but the tone so far has tilted away from "Happy Birthday" into the domain of "Good Riddance," with most mentions of the stimulus coming from press releases off congressional Web sites and tweets from Republican legislators.


FILE This Feb. 17, 2009 file photo shows President Barack Obama picking up the first pen to sign the economic stimulus bill during a ceremony in the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver. The White House says a costly spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law five years ago Monday was good for the economy and helped the U.S. avoid another Great Depression. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

So far, the stimulus's celebratory roast is probably more due to the fact that its birthday fell on a national holiday this year (although the fact that we've had similarly well-documented check-ins on the stimulus on its first, second, third and fourth anniversaries might also explain the crickets), which means much of the analyses, fetes and further frustrations will get pushed back to later in the week.

Although the Council of Economic Advisers released its report on the ARRA on Monday — which says that the law created or saved about 6 million jobs — the president and vice president are holding off their events until later in the week. Obama is supposed to speak on the economy today, and Vice President Biden is going to Granite City, Ill., to give a speech Wednesday on the fifth anniversary of the stimulus. We're going to be talking about the stimulus package for the rest of the week, and Democrats and progressives may be saving their accolades (or tepid support) for the events planned later in the week — as may many Republicans and conservatives.

However, an increase in response to the stimulus's birthday doesn't necessarily mean the tenor of D.C.'s birthday wishes for the bill will change. Many prominent economists — the Keynesian kind that the White House likes to listen to — thought that the stimulus wasn't big enough to make a dent in the recession's duration. We'll see how they view things in retrospect and in light of the CEA report.

All in all, it's too early to say whether Democrats are truly staying silent on the stimulus — or whether any of the grand pronouncements over the law's legacy, from the left or the right, are true. Let's wait until the 10th anniversary, or at least the end of the week, to judge the situation. Until then, here is a rough list of the birthday messages popping up for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the Internet.

Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: "Five years later, the U.S. economy is undoubtedly in a stronger position, thanks to the grit and determination of our nation's workers and businesses. The economy has now grown for 11 straight quarters, and businesses have added 8.5 million jobs since early 2010. While far more work remains to ensure that the economy provides opportunity for every American, there can be no question that President Obama’s actions to date have laid the groundwork for stronger, more sustainable economic growth in the years ahead."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "If you recall five years ago, the notion was that if the government spent all this money — that, by the way, was borrowed — that somehow the economy would begin to grow and create jobs. Well, of course, it clearly failed."

Steve Benen: "First, if the nation had followed the GOP’s preferred course at the height of the crisis -- David Brooks described the Republican prescription at the time as “insane” -- the Great Recession would have been far worse, making their complaints now rather laughable. Second, if GOP lawmakers are convinced the stimulus failed, why’d they take credit for its investments back home? And third, public relations notwithstanding, the Recovery Act was a great success."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "Five years later, the stimulus is no success to celebrate. It is a tragedy to lament."

ThinkProgress: "Over half of the GOP caucus praised the effects of the stimulus or took credit for the federal dollars in their home districts and states — despite repeatedly voting against it in Washington D.C."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): “The ‘stimulus’ has turned out to be a classic case of big promises and big spending with little results.  Five years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, millions of families are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’"

Michael Grunwald: "The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity. It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form. It helped fund the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S., and research into the green technologies of tomorrow. It’s the reason U.S. wind production has increased 145% since 2008 and solar installations have increased more than 1,200%. The stimulus is also the reason the use of electronic medical records has more than doubled in doctors’ offices and almost quintupled in hospitals. It improved more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure. It launched Race to the Top, the most ambitious national education reform in decades."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.): “When the stimulus was first announced, we were promised it would lead to ‘shovel-ready’ jobs and get our economy moving. Five years later, our economy is still sluggish, Americans are dropping out of the workforce by the thousands, and the President’s latest big government experiment, Obamacare, is now on track to slash 2 million more jobs from the workforce."

The Council of Economic Advisers' five-year report: "The Recovery Act, by itself, saved or created about 6 million job-years, where a job-year is defined as one full-time job for one year."

James Freeman: "The failure of the stimulus was a failure of the neo-Keynesian belief that economies can be jolted into action by a wave of government spending. In fact, people are smart enough to realize that every dollar poured into the economy via government spending must eventually be taken out of the productive economy in the form of taxes. The way to jolt an economy to life and to sustain long-term growth is to create more incentives for people to work, save and invest. Let's hope Washington's next stimulus plan is aimed at reducing the tax and regulatory burden on American job creators."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): “Five years after Congress passed President Obama’s so-called stimulus plan, it’s clear a better plan would have been to get Washington out of the way and liberate our free enterprise system to create more good jobs."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): "As we mark this anniversary, I urge Republicans to set aside their partisan agenda and instead work with Democrats to complete the work of our recovery."

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.): "After five difficult years, it’s time for President Obama to turn the page on his failed stimulus by working with House Republicans to promote policies that strengthen our economy and get Americans back to work."

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.): "On the fifth anniversary of its stimulus law, the Obama administration should admit that its economic policies have failed and we cannot afford to continue down this same path."

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): “Five years and $1 trillion later, millions of Americans are still waiting for the relief Democrats and the president promised when they jammed the partisan stimulus bill through Congress."

Rush Limbaugh: "This is the fifth anniversary of Obama's stimulus. Nobody noticed, did they? Nobody's out celebrating it. Nobody's reminding you of it. Nobody is calling your attention to it. Nobody is applauding it. Nobody's doing stories on how much it mattered. We're not getting any stories from the media about all the great things that happened as a result of the stimulus. We're getting a big, fat zero, goose egg. Nothing."

Democrats, as summarized by NBC News: "silence."

George Zornick: "Most of the spending measures in the stimulus bill have expired, but the point is that it did what it was supposed to do. For Republicans to simply say 'the economy is still bad, so the stimulus was a failure' is a cheap misdirection."

 

Must-reads: 

"Congressional Republicans are focused on calming their divided ranks" — Robert Costa, The Washington Post

"Group tries to slow federal government’s move away from paper to the Web" — Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

"A wave of Capitol Hill retirements may force some lobbyists to rebrand themselves" — Holly Yeager, The Washington Post

"Tennessee Defeat Has Labor Leaders Thinking Inward" — Melanie Trottman, The Wall Street Journal

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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