Mired in excruciating negotiations over the budget and the debt ceiling, President Barack Obama might reflect that things didn't have to turn out this way. The impasse grows mainly out of one major decision he made early on: pushing through a giant stimulus.
When he took office in January 2009, this was his first priority. The following month, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with a price tag eventually put at $862 billion.
It was, he said at the time, the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history," and would "create or save three and a half million jobs over the next two years."
The president was right about the first claim. As a share of gross domestic output, it was the largest fiscal stimulus program ever tried in this country. But the second claim doesn't stand up so well. Today, total nonfarm employment is down by more than a million jobs.
What Obama didn't foresee is that his program would spark a populist backlash and give rise to the tea party. Where would Michele Bachmann be if the stimulus had never been enacted—or if it had been a brilliant success?
To say it has not been is to understate the obvious. The administration says the results look meager because the economy was weaker than anyone realized. Maybe so, but fiscal policy is a clumsy and uncertain tool for stimulating growth, which the past two years have not vindicated.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Stimulus to Nowhere - Reason Magazine