The Center for American Progress made this short video about whether the stimulus worked, and I thought it was worth sharing.
This isn’t new information for those of us in the fact-based community who have been following the politics, the economy, and the politics of the economy for the last four years. It was Rachel Maddow who first described this graph as the bikini graph:
This description, of course, prompted a great amount of interest in, er, stimulus.
A great amount of interest.
Anyway, back to the stimulus. The Recovery Act, I mean. Did it work? Well, I mean, yes of course it did. You can’t look at those numbers (the numbers, look at the numbers) and draw any conclusion other than stimulus spending by the government had a profound impact on the economy. Some disagree? Well, they’re wrong then. Or more likely, they are lying because very few people are really that stupid.
In order to argue that the stimulus didn’t work, you need to argue that the Obama administration is incompetent — no, very very incompetent — at fiscal policy, but that they are also incredibly, absurdly lucky in that they managed to time their completely ineffective stimulus package at the precise moment that the economy took a rather remarkable turn for the better. There are probably people who would make that argument. These are not serious people, and we shouldn’t pretend they are.
There is an argument to be made, however, that the stimulus was the wrong policy, or that it should have been fundamentally different than the one signed into law by President Obama. And that argument has been made nearly as much on the Left, by people like Paul Krugman, as it has by people on the Right.
One of the problems that President Obama had in 2010 when the Republicans were able to take back the House by capitalizing on (justifiable) anger about the economy, is that he was basically stuck arguing a counterfactual case. The Obama argument for his performance so far was to say that things were bad, but that they would have been much, much worse without the Recovery Act. Republicans laughed and pointed at the 10% unemployment and they won the House back.
Now that things may be improving (and again, I urge caution about getting too cocky about recent good news), it is the Republicans that might be forced to argue the counterfactual. Sure, they’ll argue, the president signed the Recovery Act and things are improving, but things could have been much, much better if people had listed to the Republicans instead. As we found in 2010, that is a much harder argument to win with, and I don’t envy them, nor sympathize at all.