Thursday, September 9th, 2010 - 6:26
Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 06:04
With politicians eager to characterize the Recovery Act one way or another, misinformation abounds. Here's a source that sets the record straight.
Truckloads of misinformation about the Recovery Act are delivered to the American people every day. This makes us particularly grateful for the good work that’s done by Factcheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center. We came to trust the information provided by the Center during past elections when “fact checkers” dissected often outrageous claims by candidates. Although Factcheck.org hasn’t published a great deal about the Recovery Act, that which it has done has been very helpful.
Some recent samples, in chronological order:
On July 2, Factcheck.org took out after the sloppy use of the word “bailout.” Analysts noted that the term has become a catch phrase that conjures unpleasant ties to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which indeed was a bailout – providing money to a failing business – as defined by the Oxford English dictionary. Now bailout is used wily-nilly for the stimulus and other government spending – almost always as part of a critique.
Writes Factcheck.org: “Yes, the bill had a big price tag — indeed, it has now grown to $862 billion. But it was not a bailout. The money wasn’t handed out to support failing companies. Rather, it included $275 billion in new spending to fix highways, upgrade the energy grid, expand the use of renewable energy and other construction projects, as well as $224 billion for entitlements such as extending unemployment benefits and increasing food stamp payments. It also provided nearly $300 billion in tax relief – mostly through tax credits of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for families.”
On July 16th, Factcheck.org complained about the accuracy of attack ads against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The ads took information from a newspaper article in February 23, 2009, labeled it as “recent data” and said it showed Nevada ranked 50th in the money received from the stimulus bill. In fact, Nevada ranks 43 out of 51. The analysis also points out that since much of the money was distributed based on formula, it had little to do with Sen. Reid. For example, Nevada starts out with an exceedingly limited Medicaid program, and therefore the money that came from the enhanced federal match was smaller than in states with more generous Medicaid programs.
On August 13, the Center corrected an ad emanating from the Pennsylvania Senate race, in which Republican Pat Toomey claimed that the stimulus “gave us record debt without creating jobs.” Again, pointing to past CBO work, analysts concluded that there is no question that the stimulus has created jobs, even if the range of estimates is broad. Factcheck.org also pointed out that the level of debt does not constitute a record – the record for national debt was set in World War II.
In a post on August 24, a Factcheck.org looked at two contradictory stimulus statements -- the buoyantly optimistic claim by Vice President Joe Biden that the stimulus had created 3 million new jobs. At the same time, it analyzed the exceedingly gloomy comments by House Republican Leader John Boehner that the American economy had been “stalled by stimulus spending” and that “the stimulus has gotten us nowhere.”
The conclusion: Biden exaggerated and Boehner got it wrong. Factcheck.org noted that the same day as the Biden and Boehner statements, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the stimulus had raised the Gross Domestic Product by between 1.7 and 4.5 percent, had lowered the unemployment rate between .7 percent and 1.8 percent, and increased the number of people employed by 1.4 million to 3.3 million. Given this information, there was no support for Boehner’s statement, but the Vice President also was faulted for taking the extreme end of the CBO’s range for the increase in the numbers employed.