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Cheers, jeers mark stimulus plan's second birthday

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 17, 2011 - WASHINGTON - Did it save the nation from economic collapse, or did it run up a spending tab so big that it will take decades to pay the bill?

Two years after President Barack Obama signed the economic stimulus bill -- the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- into law, Republicans and Democrats viewed the $816 billion plan through completely different lenses.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, said Thursday that "the investments made in infrastructure over two years saved or created 1.2 million jobs across all 50 states, which helped avoid at least $717 million in unemployment checks."


In a Senate speech, Durbin said the nation should keep investing in infrastructure in a way that is "fiscally responsible" and will spur stronger economic growth. "We need to make infrastructure investments now to create jobs and boost the economy," he said.

But U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and dozens of other Republicans in Congress marked the Recovery Act anniversary by attacking the administration's spending, the size of the budget deficit and the high unemployment rate.

Asserting that the stimulus plan had missed its mark, Blunt said, "It is clear the president's pledges about this taxpayer-funded spending were not pledges that could be kept."

Blunt added: "Instead, our children and grandchildren are now saddled with over $800 billion in new debt thanks to this massive spending bill, which failed to reduce skyrocketing unemployment and failed to focus on much-needed private sector job creation nationwide."

Contending that there is a "better way," Blunt said in a statement: "Moving forward, we must focus on creating real sustainable jobs, spending less money, and letting the private sector grow."

In the midst of the Republican attacks, the White House released a summary of what it described as the major achievements of the Recovery Act programs in its first two years. (Click here to see highlights of the Recovery act in Missouri.) Some highlights listed in the summary are:

  • According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Recovery Act is responsible for as many as 3.6 million jobs nationwide and reducing the unemployment rate by as much as 2 percent.
  • In the year leading up to the law, the economy lost 5 million private sector jobs. In 2010, the private sector gained over 1 million jobs.
  • GDP/Economic Growth: In the quarter before the Recovery Act, the economy was shrinking by almost 7 percent. Today, it has grown for six straight quarters at an average rate of 3 percent -- in large part due to the Recovery Act.
  • More than 75,000 Recovery Act projects have been started, including more than 15,000 transportation projects and 4,000 military base projects.
  • Recovery Act resources supported 61 Superfund cleanup projects at 51 sites.
  • 800 Recovery Act improvement projects have been started at 260 national parks.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development has rehabilitated over 409,000 homes, built 5,700 new homes, and completed over 38,000 energy-efficient homes.
  • The Build America Bonds program issued more than $181 billion in bonds, representing over 23 percent of the overall municipal bond market between April 2009 and December 2010.
  • More than 850 water and waste disposal projects, benefiting 1.7 million people.
  • More than 700 companies in construction and related fields have been put to work on green construction projects at federal buildings nationwide.
Rob Koenig is an award-winning journalist and author. He worked at the STL Beacon until 2013.