Obama’s Stimulus Plan: Failing by Its Own Measure
By Stephen Gandel
The $787 billion stimulus plan is turning out to be far less stimulating than its architects expected.
Back in early January, when Barack Obama was still President-elect, two of his chief economic advisers — leading proponents of a stimulus bill — predicted that the passage of a large economic-aid package would boost the economy and keep the unemployment rate below 8%. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Last month, the jobless rate in the U.S. hit 9.5%, the highest level it has reached since 1983.
The two advisers who wrote the paper, Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, went on to land key jobs in the Obama Administration. Romer is the head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Bernstein is the chief economist and economic-policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. And the stimulus bill that both economists championed became law in mid-February. What has not come to pass, however, is the boom in job creation that Romer and Bernstein predicted. A little over a month ago, the Administration said the stimulus bill had created or saved 150,000 jobs. That’s a far cry from the 3 million to 4 million jobs that Romer and Bernstein foresaw back in January.
Lawrence Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said last week that the stimulus bill was on track. This past weekend, the President rejected calls for a second stimulus package, saying the current stimulus needs more time to work, since only a small fraction of the money has been spent. From the beginning, the Administration has said that much of the boost to the economy from the stimulus plan would not come until the second half of this year. Administration officials have also insisted that it’s unfair to judge the effectiveness of the stimulus by projections they made back in January since the recession has turned out to be worse than what most economists predicted even just six months ago.
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