A year ago, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the "stimulus bill." The bill was designed to prevent our economy from melting down by giving America hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure investments. Now a debate is raging over whether it worked at all.The Wall Street Journalprovides the useful graphic above for understanding the broad contours of the bill. The total amount of money set aside, $787 billion, is in the left hand column. Of that, $93 billion in tax cuts have gone through, we've spent $159 billion on existing social programs, and we've spent a few billion on infrastructure. The bulk of the stimulus is yet to come.The stimulus bill certainly helped the economy, but it's impossible for anyone to say exactly how much it helped. It's impossible because most of the money hasn't been spent, but it's also impossible because no one knows what the economy would have been like without the bill. Historians and economists will entertain themselves arguing about this bill for decades.That said, Dave Leonhardt's informative and balanced take is worth a read. He concludes that the bill wasn't perfect, but did help to create jobs:
Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody's Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.
I'm not sure about the tax cuts, but the investments in high-speed rail, for example, would have made sense regardless of the economic situation.In other stimulus-related news, the House Democrats have set up a website cataloging a list of House Republicans who voted against the stimulus but are nevertheless celebrating stimulus-funded stuff in their districts. This seems like political opportunism on both sides. Expect more.Via Ezra Klein.