Perception v. reality

PERCEPTION V. REALITY…. Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino played her usual role on Fox News yesterday, trashing economic recovery efforts. Most of her comments were easy to dismiss, but a couple of remarks stood out.

She noted, for example, that White House officials “try to claim that the stimulus bill worked and I just look at all the polling data and no one believes it.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s true — it matters whether people can be misled into believing things that aren’t true. (That is, of course, why Fox News exists.)

As much as I’d like to think otherwise, there’s probably something to this. We know the stimulus has been effective in rescuing the economy from collapse; we know the stimulus has helped create as many as 1.6 million jobs; we know the stimulus has produced economic growth for the first time in a year; and we know that if we’d listened to Republicans at the height of the crisis, there’d be no talk of recovery. But if “no one believes it,” there are minimal political benefits.

Similarly, Perino called the notion of saving jobs that would have been eliminated a “cockamamie scheme,” which “everyone knows” is “fake.”

Now, those of us who’ve watched Perino over the years know that the poor thing is a few watts short of a light bulb. But, again, her larger point about perceptions is rather sound — what’s real matters less than what’s believed.

With that in mind, I suspect Democratic leaders and officials would be wise to disseminate this report from ABC News last night far and wide.

Remember, as far as conservatives are concerned, none of these jobs should exist right now, and the smarter move would have been to impose a five-year spending freeze at the height of the economic crisis.

Indeed, to listen to Perino, the notion that some jobs were going to be eliminated, but the stimulus prevented the layoffs, is so complex a concept that it’s literally unbelievable.

If you can’t watch the clip, here’s a transcript:

Charles Gibson, ABC News: The White House has been under scrutiny regarding the number of jobs created by the $727 billion economic stimulus program. Reports from The Administration and Congress have provided only rough estimates. So, we asked Chris Bury to see whether he could find evidence as to whether the program had paid off.

Chris Bury: For these police cadets in Missouri, teachers in Virginia and construction workers in Pennsylvania, the stimulus means paychecks.

Bury: What were you doing before this?

John Barrett, Construction Worker: I was laid off, collecting unemployment, trying to survive.

Bury: After eight months of scraping by, John Barrett is among the painters, carpenters and other tradesmen newly hired to fix up broken down public housing in Philadelphia.

Barrett: It means a lot. It means we can start living like we used to live.

Bury: The jobs came only after the Philadelphia Housing Authority got a nice slice of that stimulus, $127 million. Would you have these jobs without the stimulus money?

Carl Greene, Executive Director, Philadelphia Housing Authority: Without the stimulus money, 3,000 less people would have the opportunity to work.

Bury: On projects like this, the stimulus means more than just construction jobs. Tens of millions of dollars in new federal spending are rippling across the region. At first, the owner of this Pennsylvania window company had big doubts about the president’s plan.

Alan Levin, CEO, Northeast Building Products: I was definitely skeptical, wondering if we’re mortgaging our future.

Bury: Now, his firm is building the windows for that public housing and hiring another 100 workers. and now?

Levin: I’m a believer. I think everyone in this factory is a believer.

Bury: So is the St. Louis Police Force. After budget cuts canceled this entire cadet class, stimulus money revived it — $8.7 million to pay 50 salaries for three years.

Dan Isom, St. Louis Metro Police Chief: This is the time to invest in police officers, not disinvest in them.

Bury: Unlike those police officers, 275 teachers in Chesterfield, Virginia, are getting only one year’s salary after $20 million in stimulus spending here.

Smith, Chesterfield County Schools, Va.: We’re going to save jobs, but we know it’s a one-time fix.

Bury: But any jobs are better than none, say the stimulus believers and they see the benefits spreading beyond mere paychecks, to safer streets, stronger schools and better housing.

Reality has a well known liberal bias.