Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder have an intellectually ambitious effort (PDF) to quantify the impact of the various recession-response measures undertaken by George W Bush, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, and the US congress. Their conclusion is that the total impact was substantial:
We find that its effects on real GDP, jobs, and inflation are huge, and probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0. For example, we estimate that, without the government’s response, GDP in 2010 would be about 6.5% lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8.5 million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation.
Annie Lowrey observes that “that the stimulus — the $787 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — had less impact and proved less important than the government’s monetary policy and financial-market stabilization measures, like the Fed buy-up of mortgage-backed securities.” And this isn’t because ARRA didn’t work: “the fiscal stimulus alone appear very substantial, raising 2010 real GDP by about 2%, holding the unemployment rate about 1.5 percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls.”
I think this is important, because with fiscal policy politically off the table I think it’s important for progressives to get more engaged on all the other levers the government has—including just talking differently—to get output closer to its potential.