The Stimulus Is Lagging. Why is Obama Bragging?

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One hundred days after the passage of Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, the administration is on a bragging tour, saying they've saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs in a hundred days. It's true that 150,000 more employed Americans is a great thing and a cause for some celebration. But shouldn't we be celebrating a number three times higher?


Obama said the stimulus would save something like 3.5 million jobs in the next two years. Are we on pace? Math: 150,000 jobs in 100 days is 1500 jobs a day. At that pace, the administration will "save" around 270,000 jobs in its first two quarters and 540K in the first year. That's a big number, but it's not very big compared to the 1.5 million jobs the administration still claims it is on pace for saving or creating this year. As you can see, it's more like a third.

The administration claims that only 14% of the stimulus bill has been spent so far. That's weird, because it was pretty widely reported just two weeks ago that less than 3% of the stimulus money had been spent. I'm not sure which number is worse for the administration's bragging rights. If 14% spent resulted in only 150,000 saved jobs, then we're on pace for 1 million jobs saved, which is three to four times less what the administration hoped. If only 3% of the stimulus money has been spent, then the money is being spent way to slow to actually stimulate the economy.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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