Despite stimulus, middle class still struggles

By Mitch McConnell
February 17, 2014

Five years ago Monday, President Barack Obama signed the signature economic proposal of his presidency, saying that the passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus package heralded the “the beginning of the end” of the Great Recession.

The president told a Denver audience that he was “keeping the American Dream alive in our time.” But for millions of Americans, he made things worse.

It is now clear that bold White House predictions about stimulus jobs “saved and created” were just a prelude to later pledges about keeping your doctors and falling premiums.

Equally maddening has been the president’s unwavering belief that an economic recovery could be engineered by Washington’s central planners. It’s as if he isn’t aware of the cynicism engendered by a stimulus bill that seemed to have been designed not so much on the basis of real need or an empirical study of what would actually help people get back on their feet, but on ideology and political connections.

From the tens of billions that have been poured into green energy to an executive order that basically excludes non-unionized workers from major construction projects, for many Americans the stimulus looked more like political payback than a jobs bill — all compliments of the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, middle class incomes have continued to shrink, making it even harder for millions in the middle class to keep up with bills. The cost of college tuition and healthcare are rising faster than inflation, and millions of Americans have received cancellation notices from their health insurers. Countless others now live with the worry that their new plan may not cover the doctors they know and trust.

No wonder so many people now feel as if no one in Washington is looking out for them.

The real tragedy here is that none of this was necessary. Republicans have always been willing to work with the president on reforms that would have broad bipartisan support, and, we believe, a far better impact on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans. Things like paring back regulations, tapping into vast domestic energy resources through projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and putting the nation’s finances on a more solid footing, just to name a few.

To some, it may seem like the two parties in Washington are locked in some never-ending debate about the real unemployment rate versus the official unemployment rate, about whether to raise the minimum wage or extend emergency unemployment insurance one more time, or when exactly the debt limit will be breached. In recent days, we have even debated whether fewer people holding down a job as a result of Obamacare is a good or a bad thing.

But to focus on the day-to-day debates is to miss a larger point. It’s to forget that the record expansion of all these government programs is proof that more Americans are in need of help today than they were in 2009; that the president’s policies have failed the very people they were intended to help. If the stimulus had been the great success its supporters predicted, we would not be having these debates.

It’s that simple.

Far from establishing the firm foundation and middle-class renewal that the president promised, nearly seven out of 10 Americans now think the country is worse off than it was when the stimulus was signed. The labor participation rate is at its lowest level since the Carter era, and confidence in government has been dropping like a stone.

If the goal was to make things better, a clear majority of Americans would say it didn’t.

An even sharper verdict comes from the nine out of 10 Americans who say the president should make a “top priority” of creating jobs this year. Such overwhelming majorities wouldn’t feel that way if the stimulus had led to the kind of “long-term growth and prosperity” that the president initially envisioned.

Five years later, the stimulus is no success to celebrate. It is a tragedy to lament.


PHOTO (TOP): President Barack Obama says he has to use 10 pens as he signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan as Vice President Joe Biden (L) looks on at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, February 17, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

PHOTO (INSERT 1): People attend the Zetabid foreclosed home auction at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, February 21, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

PHOTO (INSERT 2): Signature of President Barack Obama on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Bill at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, February 17, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing


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“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Mitch McConnell 2010

Why weren’t JOBS the ‘most important thing’ the Republicans wanted to achieve? They did nothing but obstruct. Not one constructive thing from McConnell’s GOP.

Posted by SunnyDaySam | Report as abusive

Corporatocracy; That’s great @BidnisMan! It’s the truth and should be a word. Also part of a campaign slogan.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” -Mitch McConnell, 2010.

Fail. What else you got? Birth certificate detective commission? Perpetual Benghazi truth hearings? A Pentagon earmark to defend America against the War on Christmas? Keep at it, Mitch. I am sure a nice policy is bound to come along for you guys.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Look at the headline….despite stimulus middle class still struggles. That says volumes about what many consider a fundamental flaw in the way we view our economy.

Debt, even with historically low interest rates pulls consumption forward at the expense of future prosperity. Certain debt is unavoidable, most cannot afford cash for a home. Aside from principle residence debt, I believe that debt is destructive and in the long run causes economic hardship for individuals, for families and for nations. I’ve lived by the principles I’ve stated here and am doing quite well in spite of all the economic problems and hardships we face.

When you hear economists talk about deleveraging, what they are actually saying is that the consumer is pretty much broke.

The frightening aspect of stimulus, to me, is that the economy is struggling in spite of it. In anything close to a healthy economy inflation should be raging and the economy booming. It’s not because balance sheets for real people are generally frighteningly out of balance.

Posted by Missinginaction | Report as abusive

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” -Mitch McConnell, 2010.

What was their slogan, “One and Done”? McConnell/Republicans failed. They couldn’t accomplish that, so they decided to become obstructionists instead and were only marginally competent at that, but they did their damage to the American people. I won’t forget it. Ever.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

Repeating that “we are worse off” over and over doesn’t change the math McFail. The only problems with the stimulus were that it was too small and you and your fellow obstructionists failed to produce any kind of fiscal policy follow up.

Your choice of party over country is an ethical failing.

Posted by brownland | Report as abusive

The only economic recovery that actually happened was in the banking industry. That’s as far as it went, and will go.

Posted by boon2247 | Report as abusive

After spending 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell has come to represent everything that is wrong with our nation’s capital. His brand of partisan politics has fostered the obstruction and dysfunction that’s holding America back.

Senator McConnell has wasted decades blocking legislation that would have helped middle class families and small businesses. He even bragged that he was a “proud guardian of gridlock.”

Posted by catholic | Report as abusive