by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ryan Powers, Ian Millhiser and Nate Carlile
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The Obama administration has been making an aggressive push to explain the realities of the $787 billion stimulus package, in the face of aggressive Republican misinformation. Vice President Biden, for example, traveled to Ohio yesterday, forcefully backing the recovery bill and asking for patience from the American public. "Remember, we're only 140 days into this deal. It's supposed to take 18 months," he said. Only $60 billion of $175 billion allocated to federal agencies so far has been paid out. Earlier this week, President Obama took time out of his trip to Moscow to discuss the recovery. "There's nothing that we would have done differently," he told ABC News. "We needed a stimulus and we needed a substantial stimulus." Republicans, who overwhelmingly voted against the recovery act in Congress and have offered no new ideas, are now trying to sow public dissatisfaction. In fact, the "plans" that Republicans have been offering are largely the same ones that put the country into the current economic mess. To create confusion, the GOP has had to resort to sloppy attacks and inaccurate myths. A look at some of what the right wing is spinning:
MYTH #1 -- ELECTORAL CONSIDERATIONS ARE DRIVING THE DISBURSEMENT OF FUNDS: This myth popped up most prominently in a USA Today story yesterday, with the headline, "Billions in aid go to areas that backed Obama in '08." According to this USA Today analysis, "Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain." Naturally, the right wing immediately picked up this report as evidence of malevolent political manipulation by the Obama administration. Fox News host Stuart Varney devoted an entire segment to it, and Sean Hannity blasted it out to his nearly 30,000 Twitter followers. If they had read the whole story, however, the likes of Varney and Hannity would have discovered that there was nothing there. In fact, in the second paragraph of the piece, reporter Brad Heath wrote, "Much of it [the stimulus funds] has followed a well-worn path to places that regularly collect a bigger share of federal grants and contracts, guided by formulas that have been in place for decades and leave little room for manipulation." These formulas are largely based on where the need is greatest. Adam Hughes of the non-profit OMB Watch said that "it would be almost inconceivable for [the spending imbalance] to be the result of political tinkering."
MYTH #2 -- NO NEW JOBS HAVE BEEN CREATED: "How can we sit here and claim success when people are hurting out there?" House Minority Whip Eric Cantor compassionately complained on MSNBC last month. "We already know, as of now, at the rate that we lost jobs last month, over eight people a minute in America are losing their jobs. That's eight families without a paycheck." Similarly, in a New York Daily News op-ed he wrote, "To put it generously, the $787 billion bill has not been the 'temporary, targeted and timely' job-creating machine the public was sold." House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has called the recovery package nothing short of "generational theft," and declared, "When it comes to slow-moving government spending programs, it's clear that it doesn't create the jobs." These claims are false. In fact, the recovery act is creating jobs right in their districts. And it's important to remember that the purpose of the legislation was also to save American jobs. Even Boehner has had to admit these facts. In a little-noticed press release, the Minority Leader highlighted the Obama administration's recent order that the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) redirect $57 million to shovel-ready projects. He said that he was "pleased" that the funds would "create much-needed jobs." A few weeks later, when Boehner was back to lashing out at the stimulus, the ODOT actually came out and criticized him. ODOT's spokesman called Boehner's inaccurate statements "disappointing" and pointed out that the agency had just approved "six more stimulus road projects, which will cost about $43 million." Cantor's hypocrisy has also been highlighted by the media, who have noted that he is a backer of using stimulus funds to bring high-speed rail to Virginia because it would create...jobs.
MYTH #3 -- THE RECOVERY IS A TOTAL FAILURE: The Republican National Committee released a new web ad yesterday, declaring the stimulus a "failure." But leading economists agree that it's too early to make any such determinations. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that "about a quarter of the money would be spent by year's end, and that about 75 percent would flow by the end of 2010." In other words, as Center for American Progress Senior Economist Heather Boushey has explained, "the largest job gains from [stimulus] spending were projected to occur in the late fall through 2010." So far, the spending appears to be on track. The health care and education sectors, both of which received stimulus money, have shown net job gains since the recession began. Furthermore, Obama noted that infrastructure projects were always going to take "six months to eight months to get that money actually into the ground because that's the nature of big infrastructure projects."