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Reminder: The Stimulus is Working

Two years later, Texas has a lot to show for accepting stimulus funds.
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As the stimulus turns two years old, there are people who are condemning it as a terrible blunder. Case in point: possible presidential contender Mike Huckabee.

Last week, he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that the stimulus “did not work.” But the former Arkansas governor, like many stimulus critics, was rather vague on the details:

Well, I think the lesson is that the stimulus did not work.

The lesson is that what is happening is that pent-up buyer demand, pent-up necessity of building things and manufacturing things that just didn’t go constructed for a while has finally started to seep back into the economy.

I think it’s ridiculous to say that, a year-and-a-half ago, we spent almost $1 trillion and now we’re finally seeing it come about. We were told that we would never have unemployment above 8 percent if we just passed this and did it right now.

In reality, the best figures we have tell a different story about the stimulus.

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent report, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for reducing unemployment between 0.7 and 1.9 percentage points, and increasing the number of people employed by between 1.3 to 1.5 million people. Maybe this wasn’t the “immediate” result that the Arkansawyer would have liked, but the Recovery Act is having an effect.

How about Texas, where anti-stimulus rhetoric is alive and well? While Gov. Perry is still touting his rejection of $555 million in stimulus-funded unemployment benefits, it bears endless repeating that Texas took $22.7 billion from the feds. So far, the state has spent $17.8 billion, about 78 percent of the total. Since 2009, over 205,000 jobs have been created in Texas because of the stimulus, keeping the state’s unemployment rate at a depressing-yet-stable 8.3 percent. In the last quarter of 2010 alone, the stimulus was responsible for a little under 56,000 jobs. That’s not insignificant, especially if one of those jobs is yours.

But jobs are only one facet of the stimulus. The Recovery Act also helped fund the work-study program for college students. Then there’s the $1 billion in grants for K-12 education, numerous health and human services programs and a host of others. Transportation saw a major boost from the stimulus, including the revitalization of the Texas 26 expansion project and the use of Build America municipal bonds.

Oh, and the Texas Legislature avoided a budget crisis in 2009 thanks to the stimulus. Publicly-supported budget filling supported by taxpayers like you.

But, as mentioned before, Texas has $4.9 billion left to spend, and we’re not out of the woods yet. It’s been rough, but it could have been a lot rougher.

And that’s the essence of what the stimulus was all about: making an unbearable situation less painful. You could spend your time arguing about whether it was a good idea in the first place, or how it will ultimately be seen years down the line. But to argue that it had no “stimulative” impact on the economy betrays not only the numbers, but also the very real benefit seen by Texans and Americans nationwide.