As the Recovery Act crossed the one year mark, newspaper editorial boards across the country took a good, hard look at the program and weighed in on its impact. From the St. Petersburg Times’ evaluation that “One year later, stimulus shows results in Florida” to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s verdict that “the stimulus rescued America,” consensus is growing that the Recovery Act has pulled us back from the brink of economic disaster and is working to create jobs and drive economic growth. These editorials join a growing chorus of independent experts who say the Recovery Act is already responsible for as many as 2.1 million jobs nationwide and provide a look at how the Recovery Act is at work in communities across the country.
Here is what they had to say:
FL – St. Petersburg Times - One year later, stimulus shows results in Florida: The reality is the bleak economic picture in the Sunshine State would look a lot darker without the federal money. The tale is in the numbers, even if there are disputes over the precise figures. Without the federal help, the state would have been forced to lay off thousands of teachers and would be facing an even deeper budget crisis… In the Tampa Bay area, the impact of the stimulus money will be felt for decades. Construction on more U.S. 19 overpasses already is under way in North Pinellas, and in Hillsborough a connector between Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway will help business at the Port of Tampa and create thousands of jobs. The stimulus money earmarked for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando will jump-start a project that could help transform the economy for an entire region.
KS- The Wichita Eagle - Hatred of stimulus bill misplaced: Obama administration officials are fanning out across the country to raise awareness about the impact of the federal stimulus bill, which became law a year ago today. Based on a new CNN poll, they have their work cut out. Only one-quarter of Americans think the federal stimulus plan has helped the middle class, and only one-third think it helped low-income Americans. Meanwhile, 74 percent think that at least half the stimulus spending has been wasted. Such perceptions are understandable, given the struggles families are facing and the stimulus bill's failure to reduce the unemployment rate. But they don't match what was actually in the bill. The largest item in the stimulus package was a workers' tax cut worth $116 billion. According to the CNN poll, 70 percent of the public support the tax cuts in the bill. The second and fourth largest items in the package were aid to states for Medicaid ($87.1 billion) and education and other essential services ($53.6 billion). Imagine how much worse state budget problems would be without this federal help. The third largest item ($69.8 billion) prevented middle-income Americans from having to pay alternative minimum taxes. Other large items include: $35.8 billion to extend unemployment benefits; $27.5 billion for road and bridge construction; $25.1 billion for extending COBRA health insurance to unemployed workers and their families; $20.9 billion for food assistance to low-income Americans; $14.8 billion for an expanded child tax credit; $14.4 billion for aid to seniors and disabled veterans. All total, these items account for about 60 percent of stimulus spending. Is this wasted money? Most of the remaining stimulus spending was for business tax cuts, college Pell Grants, and projects such as upgrading the electricity grid and public transit systems. According to the CNN poll, 80 percent of Americans support the infrastructure investments.
MD - Baltimore Sun - The stimulus: More successful than you think: Unlike the Bush administration's stimulus programs, in which the treasury sent checks to taxpayers that were largely saved or used to pay down debt, the Obama stimulus tax cuts came gradually in the form of reduced payroll tax deductions designed to make sure more of it was spent. And the program isn't done. The spending that will come next is weighted toward infrastructure, both physical and digital, that will not only put people to work now but will also pay lasting dividends. According to The Washington Post, just $31 billion that was allocated for road construction, expansion of broadband service, energy efficiency, high speed rail, smart grid upgrades, electronic health records and other projects has been spent. That leaves nearly $200 billion yet to come. The stimulus has not single-handedly returned the economy to growth and prosperity. But it has helped stave off what many feared little more than a year ago might turn into a full-fledged depression, and it still has more punch left. It may not have been perfect, but it was certainly not a mistake.
MA – Boston Globe – A Fact: Stimulus created jobs - The numbers are in, and there can no longer be any doubt that President Obama’s stimulus bill, passed just over a year ago, helped pull America from the brink of economic catastrophe, in part by creating millions of jobs that would not otherwise have existed. All of the major economic research firms that have studied the stimulus’ effect have come to this conclusion…. Joblessness is still sky-high, of course, and the United States is by no means out of the woods economically. It’s understandable that Americans whose situations haven’t been visibly improved by the bill want to rail against it and outsized government spending, and the stimulus certainly wasn’t without its flaws. Still, though, it’s ridiculous to deny, as many have, that adding 2.5 million jobs was a poor use of government funds, or that the bill’s other features, which ranged from expanded COBRA health benefits for laid-off workers to money to forestall layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers, helped many Americans to stay on their feet. Stimulus opponents, often motivated by strictly ideological or political concerns, have repeatedly claimed that the bill didn’t create a single job that the economy wouldn’t have created anyway. This isn’t true, and it should be beyond the bounds of political debate to claim it.
NH – Concord Monitor – Stimulus program is easily justified: Many people have come to believe that the money spent so far under the $787 billion federal stimulus program was wasted. The truth is that things would have been much worse without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The unemployment rate, currently down to 9.7 percent, would have been higher. The president's Council of Economic Advisers says that it could have hit 11.2 percent if the spending hadn't created and, more notably, saved jobs. But direct job creation and preservation was only part of the stimulus package. Some 40 percent of the money was used to cut taxes for workers. If that money was wasted, it wasn't wasted by Congress or Washington bureaucrats, but by people who got the extra money. But they didn't waste it, either. They spent it on things like food, gas and mortgage payments…. People are angry about the federal bailout of the financial industry, angry about the bailout of the auto industry, and angry about the money paid to or extorted by members of Congress in exchange for their support. But anger at the stimulus program is unjustified…. The stimulus program could have been better and should have been bigger. But it's doing a decent job of keeping the economy afloat until it can swim again and people employed who would otherwise need assistance.
NY- The Journal News - Recovery Act not a failure: The law's "safety net" helped to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide medical care for millions who were furloughed, unemployed or otherwise blindsided by the Great Recession. How the needy might have managed without such help is a human riddle seldom even acknowledged by so many of the stimulus law's critics, the most vociferous being congressional Republicans, who did not support the measure. They have made sport of mocking the recovery law, largely ignoring what it is supposed to help us recover from. The recession began in December 2007 under President George W. Bush. By the time Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, the economy had shed some 4.4 million jobs, a figure that ballooned to 6 million by the time the Recovery Act was signed in February 2009. Mercifully, such bloodletting has slowed considerably in the time since.
NY - New York Times - Truth and Fiction on the Stimulus Bill: It was a pleasure to see President Obama come out swinging this week and win a round in the long-running fight with Republicans over the $787 billion stimulus bill. On Wednesday, the first anniversary of the signing of the package into law, Mr. Obama and other administration officials detailed the success of the stimulus while Republicans kept trying to label it a failure. Democrats did not shy from pointing out that many Republicans who voted against the stimulus then lobbied to get some of the money for their districts. (The Wall Street Journal assembled a particularly telling hall of shame by using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain letters written by more than a dozen Republican lawmakers to various government agencies, asking that stimulus money be awarded for job-creating projects in their districts.) There is virtually no dispute among economists that the stimulus prevented a bad recession from becoming much worse. Among other things, it has preserved or created 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs, according to various private sector analyses, and it is expected, ultimately, to add a total of roughly 2.5 million jobs. But that hasn't stopped Republicans -- all but three of whom voted against the stimulus -- from claiming that it failed to create ''a single job.'' They also have called it a waste and socialism, when it is basically Economics 101 for how government should act in a deep recession. They also blame the stimulus for the widening budget deficit. Wrong again. Today's deficits are largely rooted in the profligate Bush years, with stimulus contributing little to the long-term shortfall because the spending is temporary.
PA - Lancaster Intelligencer Journal - Stimulus Payoff: "Americans will be spending the next few decades paying for a failed government experiment that provided zero relief" - Pennsylvania Republican Party. Zero relief? Really? Talk to the local construction firms that paved roads and repaired bridges in the past year. Without the stimulus, most of that work would not have been done. Tell it to the 328 teenagers who got work in Lancaster County last summer or to the seven new Head Start employees who are working with pre-school children. How about the $4 million Lancaster city received to upgrade sewer pumps and to address chronic sewage overflows? Without the funds, how does local government pay for upgrades mandated by Chesapeake Bay pollution regulations? Or the $3.25 million that SouthEast Lancaster Health Services received to add 24 exam rooms and expand dental space. Anyone who has seen the lines of people seeking medical and dental attention at the clinic understands how necessary those services are. Housing Development Corp. is using stimulus money to weatherize 750 homes. The Lancaster Housing Authority is replacing aging elevators and more than 300 windows at the Church and Farnum street highrises for the elderly. Funds have been set aside to help pay the rents of those who have lost jobs or whose hours have been cut. The list goes on and on…. But the stimulus' biggest accomplishment may have been that it pulled the nation back from the brink of economic disaster…. [T]o insist, as TV talk show host Glenn Beck did, that the stimulus "still hasn't done squat,'' ignores the positive impact it has had on the economy. Worse, it feeds a culture in Washington that has become so divisive that there is little room for compromise. Taxpayers have a right to criticize specific stimulus allocations with which they disagree. And Congress has an obligation to ensure that funds are not wasted or used in a fraudulent manner. But to suggest the stimulus has provided "zero relief'' is a fiction advanced by those whose ideology blinds them from the facts.
PA – Philadelphia Inquirer – How the stimulus rescued America: Cut through all the numbers, though, and this is what you find: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act saved us from plunging into a second Great Depression…. The Recovery Act brought the economy back from the brink. And these figures probably underestimate its impact, because they don't take market psychology into account. When the legislation passed, the economy was plunging at a pace similar to that of the 1930s. If Congress had sat on its hands, unemployment now could easily be 12 percent to 15 percent - and on its way to 20 percent…. With the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act a year ago, Congress took the first major step toward bringing the economy back from the brink. And it worked. Now we need our leaders to take additional steps to assure that the economy delivers for regular Pennsylvanians and Americans. Otherwise, unemployment will remain high for years to come.
PA – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Real dollars: The stimulus program bolstered Pennsylvania: In case any Pennsylvanians are still skeptical about the economic stimulus package that came out of Washington last year, the evidence of its impact is writ large across the landscape. The state Department of General Services reports that $11 billion was paid to state residents in tax benefits; $13.5 billion was routed through state agencies for highway construction, school improvement, clean energy and other projects; and the remainder went to local governments or federal programs that support universities, fix locks and dams, improve housing or help businesses. All told, the dollars in Pennsylvania have translated into 12,000 jobs so far…. In the end, the first year of stimulus spending did not erase the nation's high jobless rate, although no one predicted that it would. More job creation efforts are necessary, but Pennsylvania and the nation would be in a deeper stew if this recovery program had not happened.
TN - Decatur Daily - Federal stimulus has worked as designed: Wednesday, President Barack Obama reminded a grumbling nation of those days and how the economy is gradually bouncing back. The rebound isn’t nearly as rapid as any of us would like, but as the president said, a depression is no longer a possibility. The president made the statement on the one-year anniversary of the $787 billion American Economic Recovery and Investment Act. Millions of people are still out of work, as the president noted. He also emphasized that the recovery program wasn’t meant to put everyone back to work, but to stop the slide, build confidence and help people survive the hard times. The president is looking to the private sector to generate jobs and fuel the economy — not government — although it is giving work to 3.5 million. It is difficult to ask someone without a job to be patient, but the Great Depression lasted from 1929 to 1939 and the recovery was slow.
VA - The Roanoke Times - Stimulus act made the economy better: According to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, only 6 percent of Americans believe the federal stimulus package enacted a year ago last week created jobs. Do the math and that means that 94 percent of Americans are misinformed. As New York Times economy columnist David Leonhardt wrote in a piece last week, there is no practical doubt that the stimulus created jobs and halted the free fall of the American economy last year: "Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody's Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative." Yes, the economy is still bad. Unemployment is still high. Without the stimulus, though, experts agree it would have been far, far worse. As Leonhardt wrote, "Saying that things could have been even worse doesn't exactly inspire. Liberals don't like the stimulus because they wish it were bigger. Republicans don't like it because it's a Democratic program." As Congress prepares another stimulus bill (called a "jobs" bill, as he notes, since stimulus has become a dirty word), Leonhardt thinks it would make sense to study what worked about last year's bill and what did not. That does make tremendous sense. Unfortunately, even as Republicans beg for money from the bill for their states and districts, they continue to bad mouth it and claim that absolutely nothing about it has worked. Republicans have staked their chances in November's mid-term elections on the continuation of economic misery. Some have even begun to raise some alarm that the economic recovery will be too strong for voters to ignore by the election. Karl Rove, for instance, seemed in a recent appearance on Fox News to be setting up a fallback position: "The economy is stabilized compared to where it was a year ago, but is it because the government has spent $200 billion in the stimulus program? I don't think so." How dedicated are Republicans to obstructing Democratic efforts to improve the economy and get Americans back to work? Senate Republicans appear willing to filibuster a $15 billion jobs bill that contains only provisions with which they've already announced agreement. The economy is not in good shape. But it's getting better. And, clearly, it would have been far worse without the much-maligned stimulus bill. The facts are clear, even if most of the American public can't seem to see them.
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director