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Power of Stimulus Slow to Take Hold

Those figures track closely with estimates by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com, who calculates that the government made $242 billion in stimulus funds available for various purposes through the end of June and paid out about $110 billion. In a recent analysis, Zandi predicted that "the maximum contribution from the stimulus should occur in the second and third quarters of this year," when it will add more than three percentage points to overall economic growth.

"It's pretty much according to plan in terms of the payout and in terms of its economic impact. This is in the script," Zandi said. The problem, he said, is that "the economy has been measurably worse than anyone expected," with a surprisingly sharp "collapse in employment and surge in unemployment" that caught most economists off guard.

"That's why the administration's forecasts have been so wrong," he said.

The White House continues to predict that the stimulus package will save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. Zandi predicts it will fall short of that, producing about 2.5 million jobs -- still a significant impact.

Whatever the number, Democrats are hoping it will be enough to convince voters that Obama is leading them out of the economic wilderness.

"I think the president was very clear that things were going to take a long time to turn around," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in charge of electing Democrats to the House. Republicans "are making the argument to the American people that doing nothing would have been the best policy. And I don't think people will buy that. . . .

"The measures we have taken have certainly prevented things from getting much worse."


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