One of the common refrains you will hear from pundits this election season is the claim that the Obama stimulus was an utter failure. From the right, it was too large. From the left, too small. Both of these claims fail to grasp the whole picture of the stimulus, both in the effort to get it passed as well as what the stimulus included.
The stimulus bill, officially the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” has produced the desired results. It stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs, preventing the crisis from becoming a full-fledged depression. But more, it invested in modernizing the nation’s aging infrastructure. The top economic forecasters, from JP Morgan Chase to Moody’s, all give it credit for stabilizing the economy as well as the boom in private sector job growth, the largest in 30 years. What is often times forgotten is that of the people who ran for President in 2008, Obama’s proposed stimulus was not the largest. Instead, the largest stimulus proposal was the one by former Governor Romney of Massachusetts.
Thanks to the stimulus, 41 million Americans were able to stop slipping further into poverty. But it is not the largest contribution. While the food stamps, SCHIP expansion, and unemployment extension all did wonders at preventing a second great depression, they were but a minor part of the bill. The larger portion involved the rebuilding and modernization of the nation’s infrastructure.
Thanks to the stimulus, almost $200 billion in both government spending as well as private equity went into energy programs designed to revolutionize the energy grid. Covering a range of programs, from solar to wind, it changed the underlying dynamic of the energy grid we take for granted in the country. Now new powerplants which burn coal but do not release toxic gasses are under construction across the US. Huge wind farms are popping up all across the landscape. Solar went from 290 megawatts output to 1.9 gigawatts last year, with an additional 7 gigawatts under construction right now. And even more importantly, a new form of DARPA, the government research and development program which brought us such breakthroughs as the Internet and driverless car, now focused on energy needs, called ARPA-e.
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