Category Archives: stimulus

Study finds that stimulus helps decrease homelessness

Believe it or not, I saw this headline while flipping past FOX, but the article I got is from CNN.

The Homelessness Research Institute, the educational arm of Roman’s organization, put the number of Americans living on the streets or in shelters at just over 636,000 in 2011. That’s down about 6,000 from the group’s 2009 estimate. The figure is based on reports and street counts from state and local agencies that receive federal housing funds.

Roman said the stimulus money, coupled with pre-recession federal programs aimed at veterans and the chronically ill, have kept that figure down even as the U.S. economy saw its worst downturn since the 1930s. But that money is drying up now that the Obama administration, Congress and the states are grappling with budget issues fueled by the recession.

Once again, when you look at the figures, things have gone much, much better than they could have. Keep that in mind as the year progresses.

In discussing the stimulus, simply know this:

The GDP numbers are on Obama’s side. Like most statistics, this one proves reality has a liberal bias.

the economy actually shrank at a 8.9 percent annual rate the fourth quarter of 2008 and 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009 (earlier estimates had shown a smaller, 5.9 percent annualized drop across the two quarters).

Then, Congress passed the stimulus bill, the fall in growth dwindled to 0.7 percent in the second quarter, and, by the third quarter of 2009, we had 1.7 percent growth. “We went from negative to positive at precisely the time that the stimulus was providing maximum benefit in terms of tax cuts and spending increases,” Zandi says. “The numbers actually reinforce the importance of the stimulus in jump-starting a recovery.” What the stimulus didn’t do, however, was raise employment to the levels that the White House had predicted — partly because the economy was in worse shape than anyone, even the official data-crunchers, knew.

But we’re gonna watch Tea Party lunatics torpedo Obama’s attempts to keep us afloat. Years down the road, we’ll look at the right-wing extremism as one thing that really held us back during the Obama years.

Just a reminder: the stimulus was a huge success

Now that we’re rearing up on the end of Barack Obama’s second year as president, it seems like a good time to really start judging how he’s been doing so far. Most of his major victories have been in ways that will take a while to spider their way into fruition, so all of the boo-hooing and naysaying that happened within weeks after various bills passed was just stupid to begin with.

So let’s take the stimulus package. Verdict? Yes.

For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.

The stimulus really is starting to change Washington — and not just the buildings. Every contract and lobbying contact is posted at Recovery.gov, with quarterly data detailing where the money went. A Recovery Board was created to scrutinize every dollar, with help from every major agency’s independent watchdog. And Biden has promised state and local officials answers to all stimulus questions within 24 hours. It’s a test-drive for a new approach to government: more transparent, more focused on results than compliance, not just bigger but better. Biden himself always saw the Recovery Act as a test — not only of the new Administration but of federal spending itself.

Sometimes it’s important to realize that many of us had absolutely astronomical expectations for Barack Obama. Yes, he promised us the moon and most people realized it was unrealistic to expect even a few acres of that, but at the same time even the most “realistic” liberals figured that Obama could storm the barn and do everything all at once.

Obama took possibly the smartest strategy there is: put all of his chips into more long-term investments that would benefit the country immensely when they finally flowered, not only giving a more idealistic bonus to Americans at large, but situating himself in a fantastic spot come 2012. After all, what will his opponent be able to say when Obama points out that his stimulus plan was a success on all fronts, despite what the haters were crying early on?

When surveys matter: economists like Bernanke, say recession is over

Your money. It's watching you.When polls just ask random people about their opinion, that’s just what it is: opinion. The end result doesn’t represent an actuality, just what most people think it is (consider how many times asking the audience proved disastrous on Millionaire).

When the poll is asking a bunch of experts in a given field, though, then it becomes a sort of aggregate of studies rather than just opinion. So when a boatload of economists both say Bernanke should stay on board and that the recession is over, I say it means we should listen.

Meanwhile, the majority of the economists The Wall Street Journal surveyed during the past few days said the recession that began in December 2007 is now over. Battling the downturn defined most of Mr. Bernanke’s term, which began in early 2006 and expires in January, and economists say his handling of the crisis has earned him four more years as Fed chief.

“He deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the financial markets,” said Joseph Carson of AllianceBernstein. “Confidence in recovery would be damaged if he was not reappointed.”

Now just to point out that this isn’t a case of trying to give Obama credit for things he isn’t responsible for (as a few comments seemed to in another post…), Bernanke is a Bush appointee. So the only way to wrangle Obama into the picture is to suggest that he not pull a stupid and replace the guy given the upturn. Or as the Journal put it:

But some said a recovery could make Mr. Bernanke’s road to reappointment more rocky. “Once it is perceived that the economy is on its way to recovery, it gives Obama the opportunity to put in his own person,” Mr. Silvia said. “It could be like Great Britain at the end of World War II. ‘Thank you for all the hard work, Mr. Churchill, but we’re going to bring someone else in to handle the next phase.'”

Read the whole article, it’s nice to finally get some good news.

The stimulus is starting to create some jobs

Your money. It's watching you.Gotta be honest here, I’m surprised the stimulus is yielding any benefits this quickly. I was wholly expecting it to be quite some time before all that money managed to spider its way down to the ground, but it looks like things are moving in the right direction.

At the end of June, 49,377 jobs had been “created or sustained” by water, highway and public transportation projects, compared to slightly more than 21,000 jobs at the end of May.

The Pacific Northwestern state of Washington accounted for the most jobs of any state or territory at 3,481, with the bulk of those concentrated in highway repairs.

According to the Transportation Department, Washington has also been obligated some $627.8 million out of the $22.7 billion the states have requested from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but I think we can see some light through the trees finally.

From the get-go, Obama said this wouldn’t happen overnight, that although the package would be a big step toward recovery we’d have to be patient. The Republicans wanted to call it a failure before the president’s signature had dried on the paper, but take a look. The seedlings are a-sprouting. We’ll get that unemployment number down yet, by gum.