Monday, February 17, 2014

Obama's stimulus package wasn't enough but was much better than nothing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As CNN is reporting, Republicans are crapping all over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the fifth anniversary of its passage. That's the stimulus package that President Obama was able to get out of Congress, and specifically out of obstructionist, trickle-down Republicans, early in his first term. Apparently making shit up about Benghazi and the IRS and otherwise smearing the president at every turn isn't enough. Now they're on to blaming him for... saving the economy from utter disaster.

The economy needed much more of a stimulus back then, but of course Obama wasn't about to get a bigger package from Republicans wedded to their extremist anti-government ideology and intent on trying to make him fail even at the expense of harming the country, and from Democrats who lacked either the courage or the simple common sense to embrace even this limited government intervention in the economy. But what he got was still absolutely necessary, and it was not just better than nothing but enough, it would appear in retrospect, to stabilize the economy and put the country on the road to recovery, as bumpy as it's been given how little his opponents have bothered to help.

Indeed, as Steve Benen reminds us today, "the global economic crisis had reached terrifying levels, and U.S. policymakers had to choose a direction for the nation’s future." Democrats, on the whole, demanded action and got behind stimulus, while Republicans "called for a five-year federal spending freeze." Just imagine what would have happened had Republicans gotten their way. Imagine what the unemployment level would be today, imagine how weak the economy would still be, imagine how so many more Americans would be suffering, unable to pay their bills and put food on the table, if even on a table at all.

Just take a look at the charts in Steve's post. What do you see? Significant GDP growth and private-sector job growth that is connected directly to Obama's stimulus package:

The evident details are hard to miss – the economy crashed, then Democrats approved the stimulus, and then the economy started growing, job creation picked up, and the stock market soared. I've long been curious: for Republicans, how is this possible? Was it magic? Was it a coincidence? How do they explain why every relevant economic metric showed sharp improvements immediately after the Recovery Act kicked in?

None of this would have happened with Republicans in power. Things would have gotten far worse:

Indeed, perhaps the most striking thing about GOP economic arguments is that they weren't just wrong about the efficacy of Clinton's policies, and then wrong again during the Bush/Cheney era, and then wrong once again about whether the Recovery Act would help turn the economy around, congressional Republicans also seemed to go to great lengths to impose policies – debt crises, spending cuts, sequestration, a government shutdown – that seemed almost designed to make the economy worse.
 
It's why Ben Bernanke – a Fed chairman who, up until extremely recently, was considered a fairly conservative Republican – repeatedly told Capitol Hill that the single biggest obstacle to a healthier economy has been the fiscal policies demanded by GOP lawmakers.
 
It's why Republicans are bad for America. Period.

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