February 17 was the five-year anniversary of the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package. The stimulus package consisted of $800 billion in government spending and tax-relief that was designed to reverse job losses and jump-start economic growth at the height of 2009’s Great Recession. Federal intervention aimed to counter the economic downturn that started toward the end of the Bush administration, when the government bailed out the financial system and auto industry from near collapse in 2008. Upon entering the White House, President Obama decided to continue this practice of financially assisting private industries and citizens in hopes of turning the economy around.
Five years have passed, and we can now consider the effectiveness of the stimulus package in halting the economic recession and addressing its consequences. The citizens of the United States received $300 billion in tax relief to put more spending money in their pockets, while the remainder of stimulus spending was directed towards programs and initiatives regarding education, medical research, healthcare, infrastructure, law enforcement, energy, and job training. Ever since the bill was passed five years ago, US Representatives and Senators have been debating if such large government intervention in the economy is helpful.
Republicans have been mostly hostile towards the stimulus ever since it was passed, while Democrats have supported it as the only way to pull the US out of economic recession in a timely manner. The disputes over the stimulus package are purely based on political ideology. For the GOP, this sort of solution to economic woes results in too much government involvement in everyday life. The party maintains that the meddling of federal programs in small, domestic businesses will cost jobs instead of create them. The Republicans have used this argument in opposition to the stimulus as a point of attack against the Obama administration for the past five years.
From the Democrats’ perspective, government spending during a time of economic crisis is imperative to prevent the market from costing US industries even more job loss. Investment in job growth via infrastructure projects to improve roads and bridges along with job training programs is necessary to give citizens the chance to work and therefore give the economy the chance to recover.
While the Obama administration has not significantly publicized economic gains over the past five years – something that political pundits have criticized the White House for – there is evidence to suggest that the US market is getting out of this recession. The economy has grown for 11 straight quarters, and US businesses have created 8.5 million jobs since 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment level is currently at 6.6 percent, the lowest it has been in five years. Even though there is some suggestion that the future of the economy is bright, many Americans are still uncertain and divided over the issue of the stimulus. A Pew Research poll from 2012 showed that 37 percent of Americans supported the stimulus, 41 percent disapproved, and nearly a quarter were undecided. Of those who did support the stimulus, two-thirds were Democrats and only 12 percent were Republicans, highlighting the partisan division over this issue.
After five years of economic stimulus spending by the federal government, the debate over whether this is the right approach to fixing America’s economic problems persists. It seems that even an issue as important as maintaining the strength of our economy and labor force cannot avoid politicization and its accordant partisan bickering. Over the past five years, Republicans have continuously attacked the President and the White House for overextending the government through the stimulus package, causing businesses to suffer and making long-term economic growth and job growth even more difficult. While it is true that the economy has great lengths to go to provide security and opportunity for every American, it does not help to have one side of the aisle only criticizing and not offering any legislation to help further the goal of strengthening the market. Even with a stalemate congress, the Obama administration has taken the steps that were necessary to spur economic recovery from the recession. Without it, there is no telling where the economy would be today.