The Stimulus Birthday Debates: A Retrospect

Happy birthday, $787 billion stimulus package: you are one year old, and, to celebrate, you were debated far and wide.

The White House sent out a fact sheet telling reporters that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the stimulus is responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs, while the Council of Economic Advisers estimates about 2 million jobs; it credited the stimulus with fourth-quarter 5.7% GDP growth (reminding us that before the stimulus, the economy was shrinking by about 6%).

Nearly 70 percent of the money has been spent (about a third of the $787 billion price tag is comprised of tax cuts, so there's only $499 billion of spending in the bill); nearly $120 billion in tax relief has been provided.

President Obama defended and promoted the stimulus in a speech commemorating its anniversary, and he credited Vice President Joe Biden and his team with preventing waste--"the dog hasn't barked," the president said.

Senate Republicans didn't agree: they sent out a list of wasteful spending.

A year ago, the stimulus was President Obama's first signature initiative as president--and it remains the largest initiative he and his party have successfully pushed through Congress.

"Our work is far from over, but we have rescued this economy from the worst of this crisis.  And slowly, in new factories and research facilities and small businesses, the American people are rebuilding a better future.  And we will continue to support their efforts.  We will leave our children an economy that is stronger and more prosperous than it was before," Obama said today.

The stimulus generated just as much controversy on its birthday as it has since Obama signed it.

""In the first year of the trillion-dollar stimulus, Americans have lost millions of jobs, the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent, the deficit continues to soar and we're inundated with stories of waste, fraud and abuse," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "This was not the plan Americans asked for or the results they were promised."

Sarah Palin blasted the stimulus on Facebook, saying the "debt-ridden package will prove to be a drag on our economy."

Republicans criticized the stimulus and pointed out that the administration had originally claimed it would save 3.5 million jobs (though 30% of it has yet to be spent); Democrats called them hypocrites for criticizing the bill after having requested funding projects for their home states.

In all, the stimulus's birthday wasn't all that different from other birthdays: it was like every other day of its life--the same partisan battles, the same talking points--except that it got all the attention. America will do it all again tomorrow, and every day between now and November, just with less volume and intensity.