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EDITORIAL: The unhappy anniversary of stimulus boondoggle

Five years on, and there’s no sign of the promised ‘Recovery Summer’

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Five years ago this week, President Obama jump-started the economy, leading to the greatest period of sustained growth in history. No, we haven't seen it, either, but that was what he said would happen when he signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A trillion dollars later, we're no better off.

The housing bubble burst and stock portfolios lost trillions of dollars in value at the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. Those were dark times, and the country naturally thought it was time for a change.

As his first major act in office, Mr. Obama signed what he called "the most sweeping economic-recovery package in our history." It was certainly sweeping, and one of the single largest checks written in history, but there was no recovery.

The value of "shovel-ready" jobs was $830 billion, by the reckoning of the Congressional Budget Office. The true cost proved far greater. Once the money was spent, the number was baked into the federal budget baseline, making the "temporary" spending permanent.

Thus, Mr. Obama has spent $3 trillion more than George W. Bush did in his last year in office.

What did we get for that enormous sum? Mr. Obama promised his scheme "will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years." By his own math, the government would spend $200,000 for each of those jobs. He thought that was a good deal.

He couldn't buy jobs even at such an absurd price. "Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected," Mr. Obama admitted in 2011.

Though the job creation was illusory, the impact on the economy of government borrowing has been all too real. "To the extent that people hold their wealth in government securities rather than in a form that can be used to finance private investment," the Congressional Budget Office explained, "the increased debt tends to reduce the stock of productive private capital."

When there's no private capital, companies can't invest in their business, expand operations and hire new employees. It shows. Today, fewer people than ever are working.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, last year the economy grew 1.9 percent. The "Recovery Summer" that Joe Biden kept saying was just around the corner never arrived. We have yet to see the corner.

It's not too late to reverse course. American entrepreneurs have been held back, and they're anxious to get to work. Paying cronies for temporary hires on the taxpayer dime hasn't worked.

If we instead cut back federal spending, curtail Obamacare and put a moratorium on new red tape, we might have something to celebrate five years on.

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