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An Increasingly Awkward Dance

Jared Bernstein, Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy, debunks Representative Boehner's claims that the Recovery Act hasn’t created or saved American jobs.

Ever since the Recovery Act passed last February, Congressional Republicans who opposed this economic rescue plan have had to do an awkward dance around the truth.  After all, when you declare from the beginning that the Recovery Act won’t create a single job, you’re going to be forced to do a little two-step around the facts as week after week leading economists, the nation’s governors, and even your own constituents say otherwise.

But yesterday, when Representative Boehner declared that “all this ‘stimulus’ spending has gotten us nowhere” on the same day the nonpartisan CBO said the program has created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs nationwide and his own home state’s Department of Transportation said nearly 9,500 construction workers were on the job in July just on Ohio Recovery Act transportation projects alone… well, let’s just say that dance got a little more… awkward.   

Now, Representative Boehner was one of the first to declare the Recovery Act dead on arrival - the day it was signed into law, he declared it would “do little to create jobs.”  But as soon as June 2009, as funding for Recovery Act transportation projects began to flow into Ohio, he said those dollars would be used for – get this – “shovel-ready projects that will create much-needed jobs.”  [, 6/15/09]
And then when the nonpartisan CBO, Congress’s top watchdog and an institution widely respected on both sides of the aisle, began weighing in on the job impact of the Recovery Act, the dance got a little more complicated.   Check out these quotes from Rep Boehner, followed by the facts:
AUGUST 2009: Maintains that stimulus hasn’t created any jobs:  “You know, after the $1 trillion dollars stimulus bill that didn’t create any jobs.”  [Hugh Hewitt Show, 8/29/09]

  • NOVEMBER 2009: The nonpartisan CBO announces the Recovery Act created or saved as many as 1.6 million jobs through September 2009.  [CBO Report, 11/30/09]

JANUARY 2010: Says the stimulus “clearly hasn’t worked”: “Their trillion-dollar stimulus plan from a year ago clearly has not worked.”  [NPR, 1/27/10]

  • FEBRUARY 2010: The nonpartisan CBO announces the Recovery Act has created or saved as many as 2.1 million jobs nationwide through December 2009.  [CBO Report, 2/23/10]

MAY 2010: Still asking where the jobs are: “Where are the jobs?” [Boehner Statement, 5/7/10

  • MAY 2010: The nonpartisan CBO says the Recovery Act created or saved as many as 2.8 million jobs through March 2010.  [CBO Report, 5/25/10]

And then, of course, yesterday was the most difficult dance step of all: on the very same day that he declares in a major speech that the Recovery Act has “gotten us nowhere,” first,the nonpartisan CBO announces the Recovery Act has created as many as 3.3 million jobs nationwide and lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 percent through March of this year [CBO Report, 8/24/10], and then the Ohio Department of Transportation announces that nearly 9,500 construction workers were on the job on Ohio Recovery Act transportation projects in July, the highest monthly total since it began.  [Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/10]
I suspect those nearly 9,500 Ohio construction workers and 3.3 million Americans at work thanks to the Recovery act would disagree with Rep. Boehner’s statement that the Recovery Act has “gotten us nowhere.”
And then to make his dance even more complicated, leading economist Mark Zandi said today that the Congressman from Ohio was “just wrong” that the Recovery Act has “gotten us nowhere:”

Asked about Rep. Boehner’s claim that “all of this ‘stimulus’ spending has gotten us nowhere,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics said “that is just wrong, the stimulus has been very helpful.”  [Monitor Breakfast, 8/25/10]

And let’s keep in mind who we are talking about here.  This is the same Republican leader that actually said he wanted all of those people to lose their jobs earlier this month when he called for stopping the Recovery Act – a claim that got him in some hot water with independent fact-checkers who rated his rhetoric flat-out false.
The true facts of the case are that this economy has undergone a major turnaround from the very deep recession that greeted President Obama when he took office, and the Recovery Act has been a major factor in that reversal.  Yes, we’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction.
While it’s bad enough that Rep Boehner refuses to accept these facts, what’s worse is that he and his Republican colleagues have only one solution: a return to the same Bush economic policies that got us into this mess.   As the head of their campaign committee, Rep. Pete Sessions, said, if they take control of Congress, they will go back to “the exact same agenda” they were pushing before President Obama took office.
Mr. Boehner and his colleagues may well be the only Americans nostalgic for the economic policies of the Bush era.   But we can’t go backwards.  We need to recognize the positive impact of the Recovery Act and build on the momentum we’ve established.

Jared Bernstein is Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy