The Recovery Act, one year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the rhetoric is flying hot and heavy.

The President’s Council of Economic Advisers, chaired by former Cal professor Christina Romer, estimates 256,000 California jobs were created or saved by the Recovery Act in 2009; more than $34.8 billion in Recovery funds have been made available to the state, with more than $22.4 billion already spent.

That includes $3.5 billion for 1,041 transportation projects; 5,663 Recovery Act-backed small business loans supporting more than $3.4 billion in lending; about $6.4 billion in tax relief for 12.6 million California working families through the Making Work Pay credit; expanded unemployment benefits for more than 2.5 million Californians; more than $1.3 billion in one-time economic relief payments of $250 each to more than 5.2 million California seniors, veterans, and other high-need residents; funding of almost $50,000 education positions; and more than $6.5 billion available to stave off additional MediCal cuts.

California’s unemployment rate remains at 12.4 percent, well above the 10 percent national rate, and Republicans’ mantra has become “Where are the jobs?” To that, the Obama Administration replies:

(click graph to enlarge)

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — grew at an annual 2.2 percent in 2009’s third quarter and 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter; compare that to minus 6.4 percent during the recession’s deepest point, 2009’s first quarter.

As Brad DeLong, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, put it on the stimulus’ six-month anniversary, “(j)ob losses are a lagging indicator and will be three or four months behind what’s happening to production. You’ve got to turn production around before you can turn employment around.”

In other words, employment trends don’t turn on a dime, and it’s going to be a long slow slog back to pre-recession levels as employers regain their confidence enough to hire.

Lots of spin from both sides of the aisle, after the jump…

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

“One year ago, our nation was headed toward an economic collapse, shedding an average of 600,000 jobs a month. State and local budget cutbacks were putting teachers’ jobs – and our students’ education – in peril. Our economy was in need of emergency triage that would immediately begin to save and create jobs and lay the foundation for longer-term economic growth.

“One year after its enactment, it is clear that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is meeting these core goals. To date, the law has already created or saved two million jobs and helped our economy grow at its fastest rate in years. It has funded more than 300,000 education jobs, keeping teachers in classrooms and children and students of all ages learning. It has helped minimize harmful cuts at public colleges and universities and provided students with larger Pell Grants to pay for college.

“The Recovery Act has provided a much-needed lifeline for workers who lost their jobs – and their health insurance along with it. Millions of Americans have received extended or increased unemployment benefits and many got help paying for their COBRA premiums because of the Recovery Act. We can’t underestimate the difference this has made for laid-off workers struggling to put food on their tables, heat their homes, or pay for a visit to the doctor.

“The Recovery Act is also making strategic investments in our future. Recovery programs are training displaced workers for high-growth jobs in our health care, biotech, clean energy and manufacturing sectors. The Race to the Top program is leveraging key education reforms that will better prepare our children for college, competitive jobs and a global economy.

“As President Obama and Congress have repeatedly said, the Recovery Act marked the beginning of our efforts to rebuild our economy and our middle class. Too many workers continue to lose their jobs or have trouble finding new ones. Our work will not be over until every American in need of a job can find one.”

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.; and Ellie Mae the bloodhound:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“Last February, President Obama and Congress worked together to enact a major economic stimulus bill to avert a full-blown economic depression. The $787 billion package was not the bill that I would have written, but it was a vital piece of legislation that can be credited with helping to bring our nation’s economy back from the brink of catastrophe, putting Americans back to work, and modernizing our infrastructure.

“One year later, there are some signals that the economy is starting to recover: the national unemployment rate has finally dipped below 10 percent, mortgage rates remain low, consumer spending is on the rise and financial markets have begun to stabilize.

“Right now, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is investing in California’s priorities like high speed rail, assistance for Medicaid/Medi-Cal expenditures, job training, housing assistance, energy efficiency, clean water, flood control, public safety, science and technology research and the prevention of massive teacher layoffs.

“As of December 2009, the State of California reports receiving $17 billion out of an estimated $52 billion in Recovery Act funds, and $30.2 billion in tax relief for middle class families and small businesses. So far, the Obama Administration estimates that more than 70,000 jobs have been created or maintained in California [from October through December 2009], the most out of any state.

“In total, California stands to receive approximately more than $80 billion in stimulus funding including the roughly $30 billion in tax relief. The White House estimates that the Recovery Act will help save or create approximately 396,000 jobs in California.

“Yet California is still struggling. There more than 2.3 million people unemployed, families are unable to afford to pay their bills, and small businesses can’t secure financing.

“I urge my colleagues in Congress to put aside the partisan rhetoric and pass a new jobs bill. It’s time to re-energize our nation’s sputtering economic engine and put people back to work.”

Some of Feinstein’s numbers didn’t jibe with the Obama Administration’s; Feinstein spokesman Gil Duran said her figures came from the state, so either they might be slightly outdated or there may be a disparity how certain funds are being classified – promised, awarded, received and so on.

From Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina:

“One year ago, Barbara Boxer promised California new jobs and economic recovery in exchange for $862 billion of our taxpayer dollars. One year later, our nation is deeper in debt, unemployment in California has soared to 12.4 percent, and we have yet to see the jobs we were promised.

“If Barbara Boxer is serious about job creation and economic stimulus, her focus should be on cutting taxes and reducing regulatory burdens. However, for the last 18 years she has done the opposite by supporting taxpayer-funded growth in the size and reach of government. Clearly it is time for a change in thinking in Washington, and that starts with changing the people we send there.”

From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

“In its first year, the trillion-dollar stimulus has been nothing less than a profound disappointment costing tens of billions more than estimated. The American people were promised that it would stop the unemployment rate from going over 8 percent, that 90 percent of the jobs created would be in the private sector and that it would jump start our economy immediately. Regrettably, none of those things has turned out to be true. Giving Utahns and Americans their hard-earned money back through tax relief to make choices for themselves is a much better way to turn our economy around – not another big-government Washington solution that adds to our already sky-high debt.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Hep me, hep me! I’m drowning in the same old dimmiecrat rhetoric bullshit.

    With Obama, Miller and God on our side, how can we possibly go wrong?