The stimulus worked, redux

Most Americans don’t believe the 2009 stimulus worked. Most pundits, like all Republicans, accept the notion that the Recovery Act “failed” as incontrovertible fact.

And then, there’s reality.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Tuesday that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package continues to benefit the struggling economy.

The agency said the measure raised gross domestic product by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011, which ended Sept. 30. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that GDP in that quarter was only 2 percent total.

In other words, weak growth would be non-existent growth were it not for the stimulus.

What’s more, the CBO found there as many as 3.3 million full-time American workers have jobs right now, and otherwise wouldn’t, because of the derided Recovery Act.

Referencing the CBO report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Hannah Shaw published this chart earlier in the week:

In case it’s hard to make out the details, the blue line shows the unemployment since the start of the recession, while the high and low estimates of what the unemployment rate would have been had Democrats not intervened with the stimulus.

No one ever wants to hear “it would have been worse,” but in this case, the truth is, it would have been worse. The Recovery Act stopped the bleeding, prevented the collapse of the economy, and at a moment of severe crisis, helped put the United States on stronger economic footing.

Republicans don’t believe this, and they desperately hope you don’t either, but this is no longer in the realm of opinion. It’s just what happened.

I’d also note, by the way, that while this chart shows what would have been had there been no stimulus, what it doesn’t — and probably can’t — show is a fourth line telling us how high unemployment would have gone had the country followed the Republicans’ proposed solution. These details have largely slipped down the memory hole, but in early 2009, with the economy hanging on a cliff, GOP policymakers had a fairly specific agenda to get the economy back on track: a five-year spending freeze and a constitutional amendment requiring balanced budgets.

You may recall, in early March 2009, David Brooks said on national television, “A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane…. [T]hat is just insane.”

But that really was the GOP solution. Those same people who falsely claim the stimulus failed pushed an agenda that would have caused an economic calamity from which there was no recovery.