The $787 billion stimulus bill signed into law on February 17, 2009, continues to inspire fierce debate. The president's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was intended to resuscitate a sickly economy by funding infrastructure, education, and health-care projects. "We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time," Obama said on the day he signed the bill. Now, two years later, the president's critics say the much-vaunted bill did nothing except inflate the deficit. Of course, not everyone agrees. What did the stimulus package achieve?
It reformed the way government spends money: One of the key victories of the stimulus, says Michael Grunwald at TIME, was to increase competition for taxpayer dollars. Programs such as education's Race to the Top have sent money only to the best-performing programs — and inspired similar competitions in energy, transportation, housing, health care and broadband. There is a "new era of rationality," and you must now do more than "check the right boxes and extend your hand to qualify for a federal check."
"The stimulus turns two: How Obama quietly changed Washington"
It proved Obama wrong: When Obama signed this bill into law, says Dan Gainor at Fox News, he said it would create jobs. But two years later, this "failed stimulus plan" has produced nothing except a record unemployment rate. This massive deception "should earn Obama a spot in the Liar's Hall of Fame."
"Stimulus a failure by only measure that matters: jobs"
Actually, it saved jobs in education: It's only thanks to the stimulus that the unemployment level is as low as it is, says Michele McNeil at the Baltimore Sun. A $100 billion "shot in the arm" to our nation's schools saved and created as many as 367,524 jobs in education — allowing school districts to avoid "mass layoffs."
"Stimulus funding helped save education jobs"
It created clean energy jobs, too: The stimulus package has saved or created 63,000 jobs in the clean energy infrastructure business, says Bracken Hendricks at Grist, and is on course to create 700,000 more by 2012. These "unprecedented new investments" thrust America into the 21st century — and show that "we can confidently say ARRA has worked."
"The Recovery Act: the most important energy bill in American history"
It's still too early to say: Whatever jobs the stimulus did or didn't create, says Allan Chernoff at CNN Money, it certainly didn't bring down our unemployment rate. But that's because "much of the stimulus money has yet to be spent." Only $275 billion of the original $787 billion has gone towards "actual government spending" and the rest will be distributed, as per the plan, through 2016. We should judge its success then.
"Where's the stimulus?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Mike Huckabee's head-scratching advice to Christian voters
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How Scotland's independence movement lost the vote and still won everything
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
Subscribe to the Week