President Obama gave a thunderously supportive speech and defense of his economic stimulus plan this week. Using similar rhetoric to that which he employed in the State of the Union speech, Obama continued to frame the economic downturn as bad and getting worse when he came into office and his actions as the saving grace that kept America out of another Depression.
He’s probably right.
I saw a chart today showing the job loss rate for the final year of Bush’s presidency and the first year of Obama’s. It went from low to dangerously high under Bush and, like the second half of an upside-down bell curve, from dangerously high to very low once again under Obama in his first year.
From that number, things are looking up. It doesn’t mean that there are tons of jobs being added, it means only that less are being lost. But, in fact, there have been thousands of jobs added over the past year. According to a key statistic from the Reuters factbox:
“The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated there would have been 1.5 million to 2 million fewer jobs in 2009 if not for the stimulus funds.”
And then there is the use of the $787 billion. Reuters says:
“So far, $179 billion in the plan has been spent and $93 billion in tax cuts have been issued. Another $154 billion is in the process of being sent out, and $247 billion is left to spend. The remainder comes in tax cuts yet to be granted.”
So, we’ve got a lot more to spend, a lot being spent right now, and it looks like the first third chunk did some good. Good job, Obama.
"Our work is far from over but we have rescued this economy from the worst of this crisis," said Obama. For sure. With a 9.7% unemployment rate, though, it’s understandable that it doesn’t feel like a recovery.
According to Reuters: A CBS News/New York Times poll said that only 6% of Americans believed the package had created jobs. Another poll showed that a majority of Americans opposed the stimulus bill.
The Republicans, predictably, are unhappy. I assume they would rather that banks, auto companies and more just fail outright and that we not worry about taking care of the people who suddenly were without income. Afterall, that’s just the game, right?
"In the first year of the trillion-dollar stimulus, Americans have lost millions of jobs, the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent, the deficit continues to soar and we're inundated with stories of waste, fraud and abuse. This was not the plan Americans asked for or the results they were promised," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
The deficit is a problem. And if you listen to the political banter, it sounds like we either get a high deficit or a depression. Is this where capitalism has gotten us?
"Millions more are struggling to make ends meet. So it doesn't yet feel like much of a recovery. And I understand that. It's why we're going to continue to do everything in our power to turn this economy around," Obama said.
We’re all waiting for that to happen. Patiently.
Photo Credit: jmtimages (via Flickr under CCL)