Stimulating

STIMULATING…. On MSNBC this morning, Joe Scarborough (conservative Republican) and Pat Buchanan (conservative Republican) were discussing the recent reports on economic growth. Scarborough conceded it may have been the result of “the federal money that’s gotten in there.” Buchanan was more dismissive, calling recent growth “steroids,” adding, “[The president] pushed all of this money into the economy and pumped it up.”

In context, this seemed like criticism, though I haven’t the foggiest idea why. Wasn’t that the point — to inject capital into the system before it collapsed? To fill the hole in the economy with government spending? Shouldn’t Republicans want to see the economy “pumped up,” too?

If I didn’t know better, I might think Scarborough and Buchanan were saying, “We’re all Keynesians now.”

Scarborough added, “It’s all about jobs.” It looks like the White House agrees.

The federal stimulus program has saved or created 650,000 jobs through aid to states, infrastructure projects and federal contracts, the Obama administration claimed Friday morning, adding that officials believe they are on track to meet their goal of 3.5 million jobs over two years.

The new figures are based on reports being released today from 131,000 recipients of the stimulus money and are intended to give the clearest sense to date of how many jobs are being created or saved directly by the stimulus. Until this month, most jobs figures have been based on the estimates of economists — not actual reports.

The figures do not include jobs indirectly created by the money pumped into the economy through tax cuts, unemployment benefits and aid to states for Medicaid. If those were included, the administration estimates, the tally would rise to more than 1 million jobs saved or created.

Jared Bernstein put together a good piece on the data, explaining, “Thanks to unprecedented real-time data collection by the independent Recovery, Accountability, and Transparency Board (RATB), you will soon (as in this afternoon) be able to visit Recovery.gov and learn about the approximately 650,000 jobs directly created by part — and I emphasize that these 650,000 or so jobs are a subset of the more than one million — of the Recovery Act dollars at work in our economy.”

The EPI’s Josh Bivens noted, just on the basis of the GDP numbers, “This third quarter data will almost surely re-ignite debate as to whether or not the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) aided a recovery from the recession that began at the beginning of 2008. A serious look at the evidence argues that this debate should be closed: ARRA has played a starring role in pushing the economy into positive growth.” (Bivens posted some great charts, too.)

Of course, all of the concerns that have existed since January — most notably, that the stimulus package should have been bigger, and shouldn’t have been negotiated down by “centrists” — are still entirely valid. The recovery legislation has done so far what it was expected to do, and given the economic abyss we were facing, that’s obviously good news. The congressional Republicans calling for a five-year spending freeze as a response to the crisis look even more insane now than they did at the time.

But the boost should have been, and could have been, far stronger. As Paul Krugman explained earlier, “[W]e’ve gotten the big boost, and it’s clearly far short of what we really need.”