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February 17, 2020 10:43 AM UTC

Happy Anniversary: The Stimulus Did Not "Fail"

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: Who else pushed the fictional “failed stimulus” while running for Congress in the “Tea Party” wave year of 2010? Why that would be Sen. Cory Gardner, of course! Years before Cory Gardner was making stuff up about the Affordable Care Act, the “failed stimulus” was a go-to subject for Gardner on the campaign trail for Congress. Remember how Rep. Mike Coffman said President Barack Obama ‘promoted fear’ to get the stimulus bill passed (below), and it’s time to get back to “inspiring confidence in the economy?”

Cory Gardner never got the memo. From August of 2010:

State Representative Cory Gardner was troubled by the Labor Department’s findings. “These numbers confirm what Coloradans have known for a long time now – the stimulus did fail, [Pols emphasis] the recession is not over and the situation is actually getting worse. It is time to rein in government spending and make it certain to businesses and families that the government will not raise their taxes. Without cost certainty in the marketplace, employers will not add jobs,” Gardner said.

And while attacking his opponent, then-Rep. Betsy Markey:

Democrat Betsy Markey has chosen to side with the liberal leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on issue after issue. She voted for the failed stimulus, [Pols emphasis] the job-killing cap-and-trade bill, and the recently passed government takeover of health care. All of these policies will lead to a future of crushing debt and fewer jobs for Coloradans…

And later, talking energy with Westword in 2012:

Make no mistake, high gas prices are a symptom of [Obama’s] failed “stimulus” [Pols emphasis] policies.

If there’s one thing we know about Cory Gardner a decade later, it’s that he stays on message.

These days it’s more of a liability.


President Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as Vice President Biden watches in Denver, Colo. on Feb. 17, 2009.
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Eleven years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law in a ceremony held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. As the Denver Post reported:

Characterizing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as the “most sweeping economic recovery package in our history,” Obama said the bill’s mix of tax cuts, infrastructure projects, energy and education investments, and aid to the unemployed and poor would create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, including roughly 60,000 in Colorado.

“We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time,” Obama said just before signing the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in front of about 250 people.

“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems. Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.”

The Denver Business Journal noted the near-complete lack of Republican support for ARRA, an ominous sign of the direction American politics would take in coming years:

Obama called the stimulus legislation — which was approved by Congress Friday with almost no Republican support — the most sweeping economic recovery package in the nation’s history.

Many GOP officials have complained that the package is too big, too unfocused and overloaded with “pork” projects that will have little immediate effect on the economy.

“Now that the stimulus bill has passed, my hope is that the president will now focus on inspiring confidence in the economy instead of the fear he promoted in order to get it passed,” U.S. Rep Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, who voted against the measure, said Tuesday in a statement.

After the stimulus bill was signed into law, Republicans adhered to a degree of message discipline about the bill so airtight it could only have been coordinated. ARRA was referred to every single time it was mentioned by Republican talking heads and officials for a period of years as the “failed stimulus”–those two words over and over until it was drilled into the heads of their audience. There was no debate over whether this pronouncement was actually true within the Republican Party, and the presumption that the stimulus had “failed” became one of many such articles of faith for the right-wing base that needed no additional proving.

On the same day as President Obama signed the ARRA in Denver, a rowdy right-wing protest on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol took place, headlined by Tom Tancredo, Michelle Malkin, and plenty of other local conservatives who would make themselves loudly known in the subsequent tumultuous “Tea Party” years of low-information conservative backlash. This was the event in which Malkin was photographed with the infamous (and still mysterious) “Swastika Guy”–whose sign characterizing Obama as a Nazi became a metaphor for the unhinged opposition to the nation’s first African-American President.

In reality, though, the overwhelming consensus among actual economists is that the ARRA was very much not a failure, and in fact helped take the edge off the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. When we say “overwhelming consensus,” we mean it–as overwhelming as the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is real. The same of course can be said for Obama’s signature achievement before the U.S. House was retaken by the GOP in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, which has been beset since passage by one of the most vitriolic misinformation campaigns in American political history.

Today, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is far enough in the rear-view politically that it’s been forgotten, even by many who had strident opinions about the law at the time it was passed. For anyone who has paid attention over the past decade, however, the unhinged opposition to ARRA, like the “death panel” lunacy that derailed sane discussion of the Affordable Care Act, was nothing short of prophecy of what was to come. The political radicalization of the GOP base after Obama’s election–and just as important, the steady detachment of Republican rank-and-file voters from factual sources of information going back several decades before Obama–set in motion a chain of events that led directly to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

Truth and reconciliation, which this country surely needs, begins with agreeing on one set of facts.


6 thoughts on “Happy Anniversary: The Stimulus Did Not “Fail”

  1. This post is such a waste of space. Nobody cares about the stimulus and it killed Democrats politically. Barack Obama is over. Now Colorado Pols gets to sell socialist Bernie and anti-socialist Hickenlooper together! I can't WAIT to see how they spin that…..

          1. Anything?  What is the first and only thing that comes to Fluffy’s mind whenever he’s trying to set his, ahem – birthday candle, afire by friction??

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