Has it really been five years since President Obama thrilled the known world with his $787 billion (give or take a few tens of billions) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?
But as we chuckle over old photos of ourselves wearing our circa-2009 love beads and Nehru jackets, it’s worth remembering how abysmally the stimulus failed even by its own fairy-tale standards.
To wit: Throughout the period of the ARRA stimulus, and continuing until today, the U-3 unemployment rate has been higher than the worst-case scenario the Obama brain trust projected would occur if the stimulus had not been passed.
Back in the day, many of us participated in tracking how many jobs were being saved/created/funded in our own neighborhoods by this massive expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Here’s one of my contributions, an article for LA Weekly checking the results in Hollywood against the claims on view at Recovery.gov, the most transparent administration in history’s advertisement for the stimulus. With half of ARRA funds disbursed, Hollywood got a total of $23,338,327, in exchange for 21 full- and part-time jobs. That’s $1,134,580.80 per job. Things did not get any better from there.
Keynesian claims are faith-based and thus impervious to anything as vulgar as evidence. But the ARRA stimulus may have marked a subtle turning point in public gullibility about government job-creation claims. As Zhou Enlai said of the French Revolution, it’s still too early to tell. In any event, the discrediting of stimulus is one thing to be slightly optimistic about on this unhappy fifth birthday.