Is it "pretty good work from the economics team"?

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As Marc notes below, conservatives and liberals are reading the new CBO report on the stimulus and coming to a divergent, crazy-quilt series of conclusions about it. Like the Bible or the Constitution, a CBO report can apparently mean lots of things to lots of people. Greg Mankiw says the spending in the stimulus is too slow. Kevin Drum thinks it's pretty good:

Given the realities of the appropriations process, I'm not sure the White House could have done much better than this. Looks like pretty good work from the economics team.

Maybe this is right. Drum is certainly right that the appropriations process can crush aspirations, and it doesn't seem like anyone is 100 percent certain about the appropriate amount of (politically realistic) short-term spending that should be in the stimulus bill.

But even if we can't agree with any certainty on what the best standard for judging the stimulus bill should be, we can certainly agree on the Obama administration's own standard -- that 75 percent of the bill should be paid out over the next 18 months. The administration has pledged to work with Congress to meet this standard. But, according to the CBO scoring, the stimulus bill as it currently stands won't make it.

If that's true, then I'm genuinely uncertain what Drum and others are saying. Are they saying that the administration's standard is the wrong one? Or are they saying that the bill comes close enough for us not to worry about it?

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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.
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