STIMULUS FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS…. There’s ample evidence that the public, in general, believes last year’s Recovery Act was ineffective. Actual analyses paint a far different picture.

The massive U.S. stimulus package, widely viewed by voters to be ineffective, put 1.4 million to 3.6 million people to work between July and September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also boosted national output by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent during that period, CBO said in its latest estimate.

CBO’s estimates have consistently shown that the $814 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, construction spending and enhanced safety-net provisions has blunted the impact of the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s.

President Obama noted a couple of weeks ago, “The hardest argument to make in politics is, things would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t done all those taken all these steps.” Agreed, it is an awfully difficult argument — people recognize the conditions in front of them, not the hypothetical circumstances on the road not traveled.

That said, those other circumstances are not a mystery. The unemployment rate is 9.6%, but without the Recovery Act, the Congressional Budget Office concluded it could have been as high as 11.6% right now. The economy grew at 2.5% in the last quarter, but in the absence of the stimulus, the CBO found that the economy likely would still be shrinking.

All told, as many as 3.6 million Americans have jobs right now, who would otherwise be out of work, thanks to the maligned Recovery Act.

House Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) insisted the other day that a top Republican priority next year will be identifying $12 billion in remaining stimulus funds and, instead of injecting it into the economy, ensuring that the money isn’t spent at all.

How would that help the economy? Lewis didn’t say.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.