The Five Biggest Failures From President Obama’s Stimulus Law

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
US News & World Report

Some milestones are worth celebrating. Others, we’d much rather forget. Today, sadly, is the latter. On this day in 2009, President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill into law.

Three years and $825 billion later, the results are clear. Instead of producing an economic recovery, the stimulus produced only broken promises and massive debt. The stimulus failed—and by the president’s own standards at that.

In early 2009, the incoming administration offered detailed predictions of exactly what the stimulus would accomplish. Those predictions, especially the five boldest, have proven to be terribly wrong. So on this anniversary, in lieu of gifts, let us offer the president a little accountability.

First, Obama’s economic advisers promised the stimulus would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent. In 2012, the unemployment rate was supposed to fall below 6 percent. The prediction was not meant to be taken lightly. In a January 2009 radio address, Obama announced he was releasing a report based on “rigorous analysis” that charted unemployment through 2013 so “the American people can see exactly what this plan will mean for their families.”

Today, 12.8 million Americans are unemployed, 8.2 million cannot find enough work, and 1.1 million have given up looking for work altogether. Unemployment still remains above 8 percent, the supposed maximum rate, and certainly above 6 percent. For 36 straight months, unemployment has been higher than what the president promised. That’s more than a rounding error; that is a failure of leadership.

Second, Obama promised the stimulus would not only have a large impact but also an immediate impact. Said the president-elect, “I’m confident … our 21st century investments will create jobs immediately,” adding, “We’ve got shovel-ready projects all across the country.”

Those jobs never materialized, and it was not for lack of workers—or shovels. As President Obama remarked in June 2011, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” He chuckled through the mea culpa, but it’s no laughing matter. Obama failed to deliver—and at great cost to taxpayers

Third, President Obama said in February 2009 that the stimulus would lift “2 million Americans from poverty.” But since Obama took office, 6.3 million Americans have fallen into poverty.

2010 U.S. Census data, the most recent available, showed that46.2 million Americans were living in poverty. Worse still, child poverty has increased, rising to 21.6 percent. Many middle class Americans, unable to find work or decent wages, have fallen below the poverty line in recent years. It’s the most tragic cost of this prolonged economic nightmare.

Fourth, the “green economy,” Obama vowed, would create millions of jobs. The Energy Department has handed out $35.2 billion in stimulus money to jumpstart the clean energy industry, but it’s created more red ink than green jobs. Nationally, green technology accounts for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and there has been no marked boom in the industry.

Those loans, however, have created quite the scandal. Nearly half a billion in taxpayer dollars was lost to the now-bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra. The company, which has since laid off over 1,000 workers, was Obama’s self-described poster-child for “American ingenuity and dynamism” in 2010. Today, it’s the poster-child for the hazards of reckless spending.

Finally, the fifth promise: one million electric cars. Obama promised the stimulus would put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Last month, the Washington Post reported that “evidence is mounting that President Obama was overly optimistic” to make that pledge.

General Motors’ Volt, expected to be a hybrid hit, fell far short of its sales goals in 2011 by 38 percent. Fisker Automotive, which received half a billion dollars of stimulus money, also fell short of its manufacturing goals. On top of that, instead of creating jobs in the United States, the company is building its cars in Finland. So the Recovery Act did at least manage to stimulate Scandinavia.

By now, you would think the president has learned his lesson: haphazard government spending cannot fix the economy. But in his budget unveiled Monday, Obama called for billions more in additional stimulus-style spending. At a time when Americans are demanding a more effective, more efficient government, he has chosen to increase spending and increase taxes.

That’s not the recipe for economic recovery. The stimulus proved that much. Now is not the time for more of the same; now is the time for new leadership—a Republican president who understands the roles of government and the free market. In November, we can elect that president. And that would be a milestone worth celebrating.

Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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