You can say one thing about the political Right these days. They are firm believers that no matter how wrong they are on the facts, if they say something enough times, people will believe it.
It’s a fundamental part of their strategy and nowhere is it clearer than in their constant efforts to demagogue and distort the impact of the federal stimulus bill passed earlier this year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
A recent misleading, but widely distributed Associated Press story has spawned another round of half-truths from the anti-government think tanks and the politicians who parrot their talking points.
The story said that an AP analysis of $20 billion in highway spending has had no effect on local unemployment rates across the country and raises questions about President’s Obama’s call for more public investments to create jobs.
The Heritage Foundation pounced immediately in its daily email that came with a headline “$787 Billion in Stimulus, Zero Jobs Created or Saved.” A Pope Civitaser claimed the AP story confirmed what he had been saying all year, that government can’t help create jobs, and that “centralized control of resources does more harm than good.”
But there’s a problem with all the Heritage and Civitas blather. The pesky facts show that the stimulus plan has created and saved jobs and the AP analysis is so deeply flawed that its conclusions are absurd.
First, the AP claims that $20 billion in highway money has done nothing to improve local unemployment rates. Economist Dean Baker points out that $20 billion and its multiplier effect is not only just a fraction of the $787 billion stimulus plan, it is a mere 0.2 percent of GDP.
That should translate a 0.2 percent increase in employment in an average county, roughly 0.12 percent of the civilian population. That increase would be virtually impossible to detect as the employment numbers fluctuate. Not to mention that some of the counties have allocated the money but not yet spent it, making any conclusions about its effect on employment premature.
But those are facts, and remember the facts don’t matter. Both Heritage and Civitas go far beyond the AP story in their assertions anyway, claiming the entire stimulus plan created or saved zero jobs. That is simply ridiculous and they know it.
The Congressional Budget Office, which the Right loves to quote when it supports their agenda, says that the stimulus plan has created or saved 1.6 million jobs. A report released late last year by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities cited the consensus view among the CBO and private firms like Goldman Sachs and Moody's Economy.com that the stimulus plan "added between 2 and 3 percentage points to baseline real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2009 and around 3 percentage points in the third quarter."
Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com said that "the stimulus will result in approximately 2.5 million more jobs by the end of 2010 than would have been the case without it."
The folks on the Right always say that cutting taxes is the best way to spur job growth. But they always seem to forget to mention in their emails and anti-government diatribes that roughly a third of the stimulus plan they hate went back to taxpayers in the form of payroll tax cuts and direct payments to social security recipients, railroad retirees, and veterans.
Another third of the money went to increase food stamp payments, extend unemployment insurance benefits, and help states like North Carolina address huge budget shortfalls without laying off thousands of teachers and slashing services to people who need them.
A North Carolina economist affiliated with the flagship of the Pope right-wing organizational fleet, the John Locke Foundation, says that money spent on food stamps or unemployment directly stimulates the economy because people almost always spend it. That helps create jobs.
The Heritage Foundation, the Civitasers, and the rest of the right-wing crowd can never bring themselves to admit that the government they loathe can make investments that improve people’s lives, especially during an economic crisis.
Instead they disregard the facts and ignore the economists, even the ones they usually trust, to repeat their ideological mantras hoping they will sink in with an electorate that’s understandably anxious and afraid.