- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A year after it became law, the stimulus package costs more than promised, has failed to keep down the unemployment rate and has faced charges of waste and abuse.

But the federal spending - all of it borrowed - has helped many states avoid painful budget cuts to their education and public safety budgets, and according to official estimates has helped the gross domestic product grow faster than it would have otherwise.

With health care stalled, his plans to address climate change on hold and spending ballooning, President Obama on Wednesday will mark the first anniversary of what’s formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by inviting to the White House people who have benefited from the money. And he’s deploying his top aides to crisscross the country and highlight projects that have helped people and produced jobs.

“Almost 20 million Americans have gotten extended unemployment benefits thanks to the Act, and over 95 percent of working families have had their taxes cut,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom the president tapped to oversee the recovery, said in a one-year progress report.

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“Jobs have been created thanks to tens of thousands of projects now under way nationwide. And the groundwork for the economy of the next century is being put in place as we invest in high-speed rail, health technology, broadband, a smarter electrical grid, clean cars and batteries, and renewable energy.”

So far, that’s proving to be a tough sell. A CBS-New York Times poll released last week found that just 6 percent of those surveyed thought the stimulus has created jobs, while 48 percent said they doubt that it will ever create jobs.

Republicans are eager to tout the stimulus as a failed presidential promise, and have laid plans to attack congressional Democrats in this year’s election campaign for supporting the law.

“Americans are asking, ‘Where are the jobs,’ but all they are getting from Washington Democrats is more government, more borrowing, and more debt piled on the backs of our kids and grandkids,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Obama signed the stimulus bill into law after touring solar panels at a Colorado museum as a way of showing how the spending would boost clean-energy production and make investments in infrastructure projects the country should be funding.

But most of the money spent the first year went to tax cuts, subsidies to states so they wouldn’t have to lay off government workers, and payments to the poor and unemployed. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, says the law kept 6 million people out of poverty in 2009, and the administration says it provided extended unemployment benefits to 20 million people.

The administration promises that in its second year, spending on infrastructure projects will pick up - beginning with an announcement Wednesday of $1.5 billion for transportation work.

When he signed the law, Mr. Obama said it would save or create 3.5 million jobs over two years, and his administration projected that unemployment would be kept to 8 percent. Instead, unemployment rose past 10 percent and now stands at 9.7 percent, and the economy has shed about 3 million jobs.

Only North Dakota and the District of Columbia have netted new jobs overall in the year since the stimulus law was passed.

“A year from now we may still be waiting for the millions of stimulus jobs and also worrying about that escalating debt the stimulus contributed to,” said Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

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