July 07, 2010
Danny Westneat Gets Half Of The Answer On Obama's Stimulus Plan

The Seattle Times columnist does some investigative reporting on Obama's stimulus, and learns something interesting.

Why hasn't the stimulus stimulated us more? I poked around at the "track the money" website, recovery.gov.  That answer is pretty simple: Most of the money isn't going to jobs.

A third of the $800 billion was for tax cuts. A huge mistake, in my view, as it largely gave payroll-tax refunds to people, like me, who already have jobs.

Another third went to shore up the states' health and education budgets.  I'm OK with this part — thousands of schoolteachers, health-care workers and researchers at the University of Washington have kept their jobs, at least for now.

The last third was sent out as grants to try to create actual jobs.
. . .

Instead, what Congress and President Obama did is throw 800 billion borrowed dollars out the window.  It now showers across the land, with some positive effects.  Just not many you can touch.  Probably none that will be remembered.

(There are some errors in Westneat's description of the spending, but I will leave those for others, since I want to go directly to a larger point.)

Westneat thinks that we should have spent more on infrastructure, but does not know (or does not tell us) why Obama chose not to.

Christina Hoff Sommers knows, and told us, last year.

Last November, President-elect Obama addressed the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries by proposing an ambitious New Deal-like program to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.  He called for a two-year "shovel ready" stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams and made reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy the goal of the legislation that would become the recovery act.

Women's groups were appalled.  Grids?  Dams?  Opinion pieces immediately appeared in major newspapers with titles like "Where are the New Jobs for Women?" and "The Macho Stimulus Plan."  A group of "notable feminist economists" circulated a petition that quickly garnered more than 600 signatures, calling on the president-elect to add projects in health, child care, education, and social services and to "institute apprenticeships" to train women for "at least one third" of the infrastructure jobs.  At the same time, more than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Obama not to favor a "heavily male-dominated field" like construction: "We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges."  As soon as these groups became aware of each other, they formed an anti-stimulus plan action group called WEAVE--Women's Equality Adds Value to the Economy.

These groups succeeded in shifting the spending away from the infrastructure projects that Westneat says he wants.  They could not have succeeded without the support of Obama, and the Democratic majorities in Congress.

(It is a point often forgotten, in newsrooms, and other places dominated by leftists, but women are often hurt when a man loses a job.  Those women get very little sympathy from feminists.  And are pretty much invisible to journalists like Westneat.)

This time, to his credit, Westneat names one actual Democratic politician whose plan failed, President Obama.  (Although I can't give him a lot of credit for just getting one of the basics right.)

But I also think that Westneat needs to go an extra step.  Neither our senior senator, Patty Murray, nor our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, is likely to answer my questions on this shift — but they might answer Westneat's.  He could begin by asking them whether the shift that Sommers describes has made what many have called a "man-cession" worse, whether it would have been better to stick to Obama's original plan.  (As far as I know, the Seattle Times does not have a formal rule against asking our senators such questions.)  Asking them that question would give Westneat another chance to commit journalism.  And we can all hope he takes it.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

Posted by Jim Miller at July 07, 2010 12:51 PM | Email This
1. Oh for crying out loud!

Jim, do you really not recall what was necessary for the Dems to get the 3 Republican votes in the Senate?

CNN Feb 14th, 2009

Three Republicans -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- supported it in the Senate. Their support was needed to give the plan the 60 votes needed to keep it from being shut down by Republican parliamentary procedures.

If you would care to find out why the stimulus package contained what it did and why, you could.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on July 7, 2010 01:17 PM
2. Wow, 600 signatures is all it takes screw over the entire nation.

Posted by: Vince on July 7, 2010 01:48 PM
3. @1 Where does it indicate that the Maine RINOs and Spector (who since turned Democrat) were the reason the stimulus turned focus away from infrastructure?

As for the stimulus, it was ill-conceived and lacked focus on actual job creation. CREATE things that generate revenue and economic activity after you spend the money on them. Whether it's tourism, manufacturing, energy, services, whatever. The stimulus should have stimulated innovation and economic activity, not just pork. Building a road may be needed, but it's not a lasting economic stimulus.

Posted by: Palouse on July 7, 2010 02:13 PM
4. Palouse, it matters not to MikeBoyScout. He simply blames the GOP (three of them... two now?) of Obama's Stimulus failure.

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 02:43 PM
5. Darn it!

I was sure that stimulus grant to study the sex habits of long haul truckers was sure to create at least 10,000 shovel ready jobs.

I'm sure the government will get it right on the next stimulus package.

Posted by: Andy on July 7, 2010 03:12 PM
6. I didn't get any tax cut; and clearly this thing was a big bailout of the states and O's interest groups.

Posted by: Michele on July 7, 2010 04:09 PM
7. All it did was put off for one year the layoffs of hundreds of thousands state workers across the country, while piling on more debt. It would have been best to do nothing rather that stupid Stimulus.

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 04:21 PM
8. All it did was put off for one year the layoffs of hundreds of thousands state workers across the country

So you acknowledge that the stimulus package has saved jobs.

Just out of curiosity, what would unemployment be right now if there had been no stimulus package?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 05:16 PM
9. You write about Danny Westneat quite often, it seems. So, let me ask you this question: Who the hell cares what Danny Westneat thinks? If I cared what he thinks I'd subscribe to his lame bird cage liner.

The sooner the Seattle Times goes the way of the PI the better off we will all be.

Posted by: Kato on July 7, 2010 05:18 PM
10. Scottd,

According to the White House it would have been about 9%.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on July 7, 2010 05:25 PM
11. Who cares what Danny Westneat thinks?

I do, because he is often wrong, or partly wrong, in interesting and instructive ways. In other words, I think that we can learn from his mistakes (and from what he gets right).

And I would much rather learn from other people's mistakes than my own -- when possible.

He is also an example of a larger problem worth studying. On the whole, I believe that our "mainstream" journalists have pictures of the world that are systematically distorted. I want to understand those distortions, and so, from time to time, I study journalists like Westneat.

As Ovid put it a little while ago, "Fas est et ab hoste et doceri." (Not that I think of Westneat as an enemy.)

Posted by: Jim Miller on July 7, 2010 06:05 PM
12. I guess the White House was wrong.

Dan, if you're going to answer for Gary, at least answer the question. What do you think unemployment would be without the stimulus package?

Gary seems to understand it would have been even higher. Do you?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 06:44 PM
13. scottd, the Stimulus failed. The Stimulus only put off for a year the state budget disasters, *and* had the added benefit of sticking us with much more debt. Yay Stimulus!

As for what unemployment would be without the Stimulus... lower than it is *with* Stimulus. Obama said so. So, again, we should not have passed that stupid Stimulus, scottd.
Or do you still cling to it? Would you like to pass another one, identical to the last one?

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 07:13 PM
14. Gary: You're not making any sense. You said that hundreds of thousands of people did not lose their jobs due to the stimulus bill -- and now you say unemployment would be lower with no stimulus. How does that work?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 07:22 PM
scottd, the state jobs are history. Because of the Stimulus, we now have more debt, and yet the jobs are still gonna be gone. The can was just kicked down the road for one year.

Why is this so hard?

I ask again. Would you like to implement another?

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 07:59 PM
16. Gary: I'm just trying to reconcile two statements you made about unemployment today.

You said the stimulus saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. Then you said unemployment (right now) would have been lower without the stimulus.

If you don't think those statements are contradictory, I guess we'll just have to leave it at that.

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 08:08 PM
17. The stimulus was a bust; it was borrowed money that we don't even have; unemployment skyrocketed past the promised lid of 8% that Obama put forth; no one thinks it worked. All we have is more staggering debt. Obama's ideas are wrong. And now only 38% of independents even want him. Independents are deserting him in droves.

Posted by: Michele on July 7, 2010 08:55 PM
18. Michele: So which of Gary's statements was wrong? Please pick one:

@7: All it did was put off for one year the layoffs of hundreds of thousands state workers across the country

@13: As for what unemployment would be without the Stimulus... lower than it is *with* Stimulus.

They can't both be right, can they?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 09:03 PM
19. All I want to know is: Did Patty Murray, Jay Insle and the other re-runs from our state hire local ad agencies, production companies etc to help lower our employment stats while improving their re-election chances or did they improve the stats in DC??

Posted by: tollen on July 7, 2010 09:18 PM
20. scottd, "As for what unemployment would be without the Stimulus... lower than it is *with* Stimulus. Obama said so. "

He said it would top out at 9% *without* Stimulus. It went higher.

Hello? Is this mic on?

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 09:20 PM
21. Gary: Sorry for the confusion. I was asking what you think unemployment would be today without the stimulus, not what Obama may have thought. Would it be higher or lower?

Is that clearer?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 09:22 PM
22. No Gary, Obama said unemployment would top out at 8%, not 9%. He was WAAAY off. And why should we go into debt hundreds of billions to simply put off the inevitable? The taxpayers did not want to do bailouts for Obama interest groups, which is what this was.

Posted by: Michele on July 7, 2010 09:28 PM
23. What do you think unemployment would be without the stimulus package?

As has already been pointed out to you, the whitehouse has already presented us with that percentage prior to the passage of the ill conceived "stimulus package". With its passage, all we've done is needlessly increased the federal debt without solving the unemployment problem and instead, increased it. From my understanding, the average length of a "recession" in this country in its lifetime has been 18 months. When is this president going to own up to his responsibility and accept some role in it?

I don't blame Obama necessarily as you get the government you deserve. The man is lacking in any conceivable managerial or executive skill sets and is wholly unqualified for the job; and yet he was still elected to the position of POTUS. The American public suffering through his incompetent leadership deserve the blame for putting him in the position in the first place. A hard lesson learned that identity politics isn't an intelligent way to govern nor be governed.

It's not morning in America as yet, but I think the alarm is finally sounding and we as a country are beginning to wake up to the fact that we need someone that knows what the hell they're doing to finally take charge in 2012 and lead us out of our malaise. In the meantime, Danny Westneat will continue to make excuses for why this country continues on its present course of destruction by the current administration. Afterall, Danny's been taught to shove a square peg (his reality) into a round hole (reality as it exists). Then again, what liberal hasn't?

Posted by: Rick D. on July 7, 2010 09:32 PM
24. The Stimulus Package has not increased employment to any extent. The Leftist view that saved jobs is not provable!

Series title: (Seas) Unemployment Level
Labor force status: Unemployed
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over

January 2009 11919
February 2009 12714
March 2009 13310
April 2009 13816
May 2009 14518
Jun 2009 14721
July 2009 14534
August 2009 14993
September 2009 15159
October 2009 15612
November 2009 15340
December 2009 15267

January 2010 14837
February 2010 14871
March 2010 15005
April 2010 15260
May 2010 14973
June 2010 14623

Posted by: Tim on July 7, 2010 09:36 PM
25. RickD: So you disagree with Gary @7 where he said that the stimulus package saved hundreds of thousands from losing their jobs? In other words, you think unemployment would have been even higher today without the stimulus.

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 09:40 PM
26. Tim: Thanks for the data. What do you think those numbers would have been if hundreds of thousands more had lost their jobs? The numbers would be higher, right?

BTW, the notion that stimulus money prevented hundreds of thousands from losing their jobs isn't a leftist view. Gary holds this view (see @7), and I don't think he's a leftist.

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 09:47 PM
27. #26 Mental disorder.

Posted by: Gary on July 7, 2010 09:49 PM
28. Gary: That's kinda rude. I'm just trying to sort out your statements. You could clear things up in a hurry if you wanted to. @7 you seem to acknowledge that today's unemployment rate would be even higher without the stimulus. Did I misunderstand that?

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 10:02 PM
29. I guess the White House was wrong.
Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 06:44 PM

Yes, scottd, that is what the general consensus has determined on any number of issues as well when it comes to the current administration. Especially when they've chosen to use such language as "will create or save X amount of jobs" in their incoherent statements with regard to the stimulus. The fact is, this group of incompetents currently in charge have no clue what to do with regard to the economy, the oil spill, enforcing immigration laws, war in Afghanistan, nor [name an issue].

But by all means, don't let facts get in the way of your ideology.

Posted by: Rick D. on July 7, 2010 10:08 PM
30. Scottd,

Unemployment at this point would probably be lower. The biggest damage to the economy is the ongoing uncertainty about what this inexperienced Administration will do. After all, we just racked up $166 billion in debt in one day, which is more than the entire 2007 budget deficit. And the solution is apparently to grow that deficit spending.

Unsustainable spending, and promised tax increases do not encourage businesses to hire new people. And we've seen that private hiring has been non-existent, it's only been Government hiring that's had any positive growth.

When you tax the ever-shrinking role of privately employed to hire the ever-growing role of Government employed, you're in a death spiral. And that is precisely what the Obama Administration has put the US into.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on July 7, 2010 10:12 PM
31. Dan: So you disagree with Gary @7. OK. Sort it out with him.

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 10:21 PM
32. Gary and Michelle, I think you are missing Scottd's point. He is contending that unemployment would have been even worse without the stimulus. Maybe 11 or 12%? In his analysis he makes several assumptions. For example the spending that went to the Service Employee Union government employees and teachers is credited with "saving" jobs. I doubt if states were actually going to lay any of those people off. They were just going to go deeper into debt. This just shifts debt from liberal states with lots of employees per capita to ALL of the states. Wyoming gets to help California avoid their fiscal armageddon a bit longer.

I agree that an increase in the deficit was a good idea for reducing the economy and stimulating employment. The problem is that it should have been accomplished through reduced taxes rather than increased spending. My guess is that Obama's spending had a neutral impact on the economy. If he had cut taxes instead we would be having a booming recovery.


Posted by: Hairy Buddah on July 7, 2010 10:21 PM
33. I know what Scottd is saying. It's a useless point. The "stimulus" did not keep unemployment from passing 8% as Obama wrongly claimed. It went to 10. Obama was way off. Obama's approach to all this is not yielding anything of lasting value whatsoever. Yes, he should be telling congress to stop the coming income tax increases on all taxpayers, but he won't. He knows the coming capital gains tax increase will leave less $$ in our pockets and less in the treasury, but he doesn't care. Small business isn't expanding; just bracing for all the new taxes Obama is throwing at them. There is nothing of value here that Obama is doing, except putting in a leftist agenda that isn't bringing about anything positive for America. Just a bunch of debt and failed socialist policies. Scottd is simply trying to defend a president that America is rapidly turning on. And they are turning for good reason.
Now we have Obama even telling NASA that one of the goals of the space agency is to make muslims feel good about themselves. (!!!!) And he's letting off that dangerous Black Panther guy who got convicted for being threatening at a polling place. That guy is on video telling black people they should kill white peoples' babies! What the.....This administration has lost their marbles. America just doesn't defend that kind of stuff. But O does. It's deplorable.

Posted by: Michele on July 7, 2010 10:43 PM
34. Gary, to answer your question, U3 unemployment would have gone much higher, but it would not have stayed there. Had the Obama administration sat on their hands and not intervened, all of the bankrupt banks and businesses would have failed by now, all the debt they had on the books would have been defaulted by now, and the profitable bits would have been purchased by companies not in hock to their eyebrows, and the economy would be on the rebound. Instead, we have the current 18 month long stagnation-headed-to-depression, with trillions more in government debt at all levels, and the to-big-to-fail bank bankrupcies still hanging over our heads like the sword of damocles because they still have all that depreciated real estate on their books at par.

Posted by: Mark on July 7, 2010 11:09 PM
35. 33-I once laughed at the prospect of another Concord Bridge scenario; but now, I think twigs are sufficiently dry and a spark is nearby; scary, but all this recent change to our Nation is not sustainable and destructive--whether intended or not; the question not asked is, how many minons/bureaucrats and programs are in place that are not reversible, as eggs have been laid in the host? fearmonger? nope--I deal with small business every day & hear their tone too; it's fear or uncertainity; neither is good for ANY business;

Posted by: jimmie howya-doin on July 7, 2010 11:10 PM
36. Scottd,

How about you answer? Do you think we'd have higher unemployment without the stimulus?


Well, you know we need to work harder to pay for our ruling class (the Government workers). I mean, how else can we know how to actually live our life without Government telling us? We need to get the rest of all industries to the point of farmers - more employees of the Department of Agriculture than there are farmers. A good 1:1 ratio of rulers to workers would be fine with the leftists, I think!

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on July 7, 2010 11:23 PM
37. Dan: I think Gary was right @7. More people would be unemployed today without the stimulus.

Posted by: scottd on July 7, 2010 11:57 PM
38. Neither our senior senator, Patty Murray, nor our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, is likely to answer my questions on this shift...

Yeah, it's almost like they're powerful women with better things to do than answer loaded questions from a guy who will never, ever, under any circumstances, even consider voting for either of them.

I do, because he is often wrong, or partly wrong, in interesting and instructive ways.

Beats being always wrong in predictable and unenlightening ways, now, don't it?

Posted by: tensor on July 8, 2010 12:39 AM
39. #37 - I tend to think you answered this with sarcasm, but I'll bite and say I ABSOLUTELY believe more people would be employed today without the stimulous.

Financial professionals and business owners want predictability. Even when things are going very, very bad, they want to know thats the case so they can make decisions accordingly.

When the government decides to make huge moves like this - a lot of it with little rhyme nor reason - it confuses the markets, and smart money decides to sit on its hands for a while.

For instance: Why would a cash-rich investment group do something like buy up a cash-strapped business if they are concerned that the government will come in next month and give the competitor to that business a lot of cash? (I sat in on a business meeting where exactly this conversation took place.)

The "stimulous" created a lot of pandemonium in the marketplace and had a huge negative effect on the dollars at home and abroad. The few jobs it "created" or "saved" were created unnaturally and create a further uncertainty in the market that continues to hurt us.

For instance: All that "one-time spending" from the stimulous on schools and state government programs. Since that money is gone now, those state governments are asking for more tax increases and threatening huge disruptions in services if they don't get what they want. Instead of the "pain" coming when it should have and all at once, we've just borrowed billions from our kids to keep the negative headlines going from year to year.

There's no doubt that the government created debacle of the destruction of our economy hurt a lot of people and businesses, but the "stimulous" did nothing more than prolong the pain rather than get all the negative news out of the way at once so that businesses know exactly where they stand and could make appropriate moves in the marketplace.

Cash-rich businesses - and there are a lot of them out there - are still unsure of where the markets are going and therefore hesitant to invest. They really don't know where the floor is in the market, and they are timid. If the worst was known, the money would return and we'd see a recovery.

Posted by: johnny on July 8, 2010 06:21 AM
40. A third of the $800 billion was for tax cuts. A huge mistake, in my view, as it largely gave payroll-tax refunds to people, like me, who already have jobs.

Notice the pernicious, false reasoning implicit in this view: a tax cut is a COST to the government. What does this reveal about the leftist/statist mindset? All money belongs to government, and you unruly peasants better be happy with the crumbs we let you keep.

Posted by: bastiat fan on July 8, 2010 09:46 AM
41. The Christina Hoff Summers story seems like it was pulled right out of Atlas Shrugged.

"Macho Stimulus Plan"? Building "human bridges" with stimulus money? At least one-third of jobs arbitrarily going to females because of their gender?

When I first read that book I thought a lot of it was hyperbolic and exaggerated to the point of irresponsibility, and yet every day I am proved wrong. It is increasingly the country we live in.

Posted by: gulliver on July 8, 2010 09:57 AM
42. Keynes was wrong. Democrats just haven't figured it out yet. And it's hard for them to let go of paying for votes, because that's what they have always done. Now all they have left for handing out is more debt to China, and worthless inflated paper in return for votes.

Pretty soon Krugman will be all alone screaming that we must spend more to succeed.

But for the rest of us in reality, thankfully, the tax and spend game is almost over.

Posted by: Jeff B. on July 8, 2010 01:12 PM
43. Jeff B. -- an interesting quote for you by Murray Rothbard on Keynesianism:

[Keynesians] now only promise to do the best they can, and to keep the system going. Essentially, then, shorn of its intellectual groundwork, Keynesianism has become the pure economics of power, committed only to keeping the Establishment-system going, making marginal adjustments, babying things along through yet one more election, and hoping that by tinkering with the controls, shifting rapidly back and forth between accelerator and brake, something will work, at least to preserve their cushy positions for a few more years. Amidst the intellectual confusion, however, a few dominant tendencies, legacies from their glory days, remain among Keynesians: (1) a penchant for continuing deficits, (2) a devotion to fiat paper money and at least moderate inflation, (3) adherence to increased government spending, and (4) an eternal fondness for higher taxes, to lower deficits a wee bit, but more importantly, to inflict some bracing pain on the greedy, selfish, and short-sighted American public.

Posted by: gulliver on July 8, 2010 04:17 PM
44. To me, the 800# gorilla here is the feminist manipulation of the payouts. Being just a lowly (apparently) guy who works with his back as well as brain, I guess I should give my jobs up to well meaning illegal aliens. Well, maybe I should have joined a union.

Posted by: shaydo on July 8, 2010 05:26 PM
45. To me, the 800# gorilla here is the feminist manipulation of the payouts. Being just a lowly (apparently) guy who works with his back as well as brain, I guess I should give my jobs up to well meaning illegal aliens. Well, maybe I should have joined a union.

Posted by: shaydo on July 8, 2010 05:28 PM
46. The government ate the corn seed rather than planting it. In the short term it may indeed have staved off hunger for a (favored) few, but it had no long term benefit.

Posted by: microdav on July 9, 2010 01:03 AM
47. The media should have never gone along willingly with the 'stimulus' moniker. Remember when Sarah Palin came up with 'death panel' the media nearly had an aneurysm. They ran news articles explaining that it was a misnomer, myth, rumor etc.

But when Obama decided to gussy up pork spending by calling it 'stimulus,' the media dutifully picked up the ball and ran like they were Knute Rockne. No disclaimers, no 'so-called' prefix, nothing. If Obama says it's stimulus, it must be. It is all basically an exercise in mass hysteria.

Posted by: travis t on July 9, 2010 04:41 AM
48. That's why they are called Obamabots, Travis. It's a mass herd following his words breathlessly, regardless of his actual results. He told them they were the ones they were waiting for, and they swallowed that nonsense whole.

Soon, the emperor will be wearing no clothes.

Posted by: Jeff B. on July 10, 2010 02:13 AM
49. Of course Jeff..perhaps we should just trust the right-wing, GOP view of the economy. They did such a bang-up job for the previous 8 years.

Bottom line is Bush/Cheney left Obama a HUGE mess to clean up, both domestically, and internationally. Its going to take some time to fix it. What is apparent to me? My 401k has recovered some since the Dems got back control. I'm still employed, thanks to the stimulus bill provisions for increased federal scientific research spending. We're slowly getting out of our mid-east quagmire. And..Michael Steele and Sarah Palin are the best friends the Democrats have!

Posted by: Proteus on July 11, 2010 05:19 PM
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