The recovery's been weak these last few years. But if the federal government hadn't reacted to the financial crisis the way it did, things would have been a lot worse.
That's the conclusion of a new research note from Fitch Ratings, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, which argues that the country's economic growth would have been even lower in 2010 and 2011 without the stimulus policies meant to combat the Great Recession.
In fact, the Fitch report argues, "the U.S. might still be mired in a recession" if not for the various stimulus measures enacted by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
For Americans who aren't economists, of course, it can be hard to tell that the country isn't still mired in a recession. More than 12 million people are out of work, wages are barely rising and many people have so little in savings that they'd be impoverished by just one financial emergency -- whereupon they'd join the record 46 million people who already live below the poverty line.
It's problems like these that have led analysts, economists and commentators, on both sides of the political spectrum, to claim that the stimulus measures enacted mid-recession have been a disappointment.
Left-leaning analysts have accused the Obama administration of not going far enough with the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, often simply called the stimulus package, while conservatives have countered that the same legislation led to massive government overspending and still had no positive effect.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has repeatedly criticized the effects of the stimulus while on the campaign trail this year, saying it promoted government growth more than it helped the private sector.
Yet the Fitch report contends that without the 2009 stimulus package, as well as the Troubled Asset Relief Program passed in 2008 -- better known as the $700 bailout enacted in response to the financial-sector meltdown, the past few years would have been even more grim.
Fitch credits these and other stimulative measures with bumping national economic growth by as much as 4 percent over the course of 2010 and 2011 -- thus keeping the country out of an even longer recession than the one it experienced.
Other reports have reached conclusions similar to this, saying, basically, that while the stimulus wasn't a cure-all, the country's economic troubles, including the stubbornly high unemployment rate, would have been much more serious had it not been enacted. The Congressional Budget Office made essentially the same argument in 2010, as did a panel of economists surveyed that same year.