James Surowiecki's guess:

Paradoxically, the very things that made the stimulus more effective economically may have made it less popular politically. For instance, because research has shown that lump-sum tax refunds get hoarded rather than spent, the government decided not to give individuals their tax cuts all at once, instead refunding a little on each paycheck. The tactic was successful at increasing consumer demand, but it had a big political cost: many voters never noticed that they were getting a tax cut. ...  Bizarre as it may seem, a less well-designed stimulus might have been more popular, and that would have made it easier for Obama to sell the electorate on his new stimulus proposals. But, given the scope and depth of the recession, it’s also likely that any stimulus would have become a political albatross.

In the end, good governance must be good politics. I have not given up.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.