The Recovery Act is Working

A few weeks ago, in a statement typical of his party’s propensity for propaganda, newly-minted Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) forcefully asserted that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package, “hasn’t created one new job.”

The problem with Brown’s declaration is that it’s objectively false. On Wednesday, the New York Times published a piece on the bill’s far-reaching impact. The results expose just how deceitful and irresponsible the senator’s remarks were.

According to Times columnist David Leonhardt, the world’s top economic research firms: IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com agree that, “the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs.”

Leonhardt then added, “The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.”

Unless Senator Brown has a Ph.D in macroeconomics that he’s neglected to inform the public about, I’m inclined to believe these leading economic experts. I’d also challenge the senator to reveal his methodology for researching and subsequently condemning the stimulus.

I suspect the only facts Brown needed to reach his conclusion were that a Democratic Congress passed the bill and a Democratic President signed it into law. For Republicans, that’s enough to oppose any piece of legislation these days, regardless of its importance or effectiveness.

Critics of the bill, like Brown, often cite the fact that it hasn’t sparked a complete economic turnaround in the year since it took effect. However, this is an unreasonable expectation. As of October 2009, only 19% of the $787 billion stimulus fund had been spent and most of that amount came in the form of tax benefits.

As a matter of fact, the stimulus package was never meant to initiate a miraculous, immediate transformation of our entire economy. The Obama administration defines the bill’s purpose as threefold: “to create new jobs as well as save existing ones; to spur economic activity and invest in long-term growth;” and finally, “to foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.”

In other words, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a time-release formula rather than an overnight remedy.

While unemployment remains high, the administration has clearly succeeded in saving and creating jobs, as demonstrated by the aforementioned Times data. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the stimulus bill also achieved its goal of cultivating genuine economic growth.

And, last year, the White House made a $27 billion down payment on overhauling our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure. Over the next few years, billions more will be paid out for this essential investment in our nation’s future.

Far from being a boondoggle, every additional dollar spent on improving infrastructure actually creates $1.57 in economic activity. This provides an added incentive to fix America’s pockmarked roads, crumbling bridges, leaking dams and levees as well as fund many other worthy projects.

On the issues of transparency and accountability, the administration suffered some small-scale setbacks. The most high-profile of these occurred early this year when conservative bloggers discovered that some funds recorded on Recovery.gov were attributed to congressional districts with incorrect or non-existent zip codes.

Recovery Board spokeswoman Cheryl Arvidson addressed the issue, “many recipients entered the wrong congressional district in their reports. This mistake caused us no end of headaches and confusion in the news media, as some reporters mistakenly believed that money had disappeared into “phantom’’ districts.”

Put simply, these errors were little more than glorified typos. But that doesn’t mean Arvidson takes them lightly, “We have now installed internal logic checks in FederalReporting.gov that will prevent such recipient mistakes. If a recipient’s district does not match the zip code entered into a report, the system will not allow the recipient to submit the report until the correct congressional district is entered.”

In addition to the zip code snafu, there were also a few, sporadic instances of Social Security fraud as well as the inevitable rash of sleazy, get-rich-quick-schemes advertising “free stimulus money.”

Despite these minor missteps, the fact that anyone with an internet connection can track the allocation and distribution of resources nationwide constitutes an exceptional degree of public access, especially compared to the previous administration’s penchant for secrecy.

Arvidson’s press release also demonstrates genuine commitment to the principles of “unprecedented transparency and accountability” that the bill aspires to.

So, there you have it. One year on, the Recovery Act is well on its way to accomplishing all of its stated objectives. Next time the junior senator from Massachusetts speaks out of turn, I suggest he do his homework beforehand.