1. The stimulus didn’t create jobs.
A year after Obama signed the bill, the percentage of the public that believed it had created jobs was lower than the percentage that believed Elvis was alive. But at its peak, the Recovery Act directly employed more than 700,000 Americans on construction projects, research grants and other contracts. That number doesn’t include the jobs saved or created through its unemployment benefits, food stamps and other aid to struggling families likely to spend it; its fiscal relief for cash-strapped state governments; or its tax cuts for more than 95 percent of workers. Top economic forecasters estimate that the stimulus produced about 2.5 million jobs and added between 2.1 percent and 3.8 percent to our gross domestic product.
The stimulus didn’t keep unemployment below 8 percent, as the Obama team predicted in an ill-advised report designed to help pass the bill. Unemployment soared past 8 percent before the stimulus even kicked into gear. It later became clear that the economy was free-falling much faster than experts realized at the time; the initial GDP estimate for the fourth quarter of 2008 was a recession-level negative 4 percent, later revised to a depression-level negative 8.9 percent.