Boehner Misunderstands Stimulus, Doesn’t Know There Are Stimulus Projects In Ohio

During an appearance on Fox News yesterday, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) trotted out the current Republican line regarding the effect of stimulus spending:

In Ohio, the infrastructure dollars that were sent there months ago — there hasn’t been a contract yet, to my knowledge. And the fact is is that I don’t believe it will create jobs. The president said earlier this year we’re not going to see unemployment above 8 percent if we pass this bill. And the fact is, we have…You can’t spend $800 billion of taxpayer money and not create jobs when you say that’s what the goal was. We haven’t seen the jobs yet.

Leaving aside the fact that just a few weeks ago Boehner was admitting that the stimulus “will create much-needed jobs,” his latest presentation is disingenuous on a couple of levels. First, as Media Matters pointed out, Boehner has no idea what’s going on in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) put out a release last month stating that “so far using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ODOT has awarded more than $83.9 million in contracts for work on 52 projects — a combination of interstate, local roadway and bridge modernization projects.”

Second, he’s citing $800 billion, as if that’s the amount dedicated to infrastructure. Of course, $288 billion of the stimulus package is going to tax relief, while $81 billion is dedicated to social safety net programs and another $144 billion is state fiscal relief. So it’s not like there’s $800 billion to spend on bridges and roads.


The real issue here is that there’s simply a limit to how fast money can go out the door. Courtesy of Conor Clarke, we have a chart showing what the federal agencies have available to spend, versus what they’ve spent. There’s about $100 billion ready to go — but as yet unspent — which will presumably hit the economy in the coming months.

As the Washington Post reported last week, “independent economists generally think that it is too early to judge the effectiveness of the stimulus plan, given that the spending package is only starting to ripple through the broader economy.” And in fact, as CAP Senior Economist Healther Boushey has pointed out, “the largest job gains from [stimulus] spending were projected to occur in the late fall through 2010.” The health care and education sectors, both of which received stimulus money, have shown net job gains since the recession began.

The upshot of all of this is that we’re still only a few months into a two-year stimulus plan, and these things take time to work. Maybe the administration was too overzealous in trying to determine where the unemployment rate was going to go, but Boehner’s using that to pronounce the entire stimulus effort a failure simply shows that he doesn’t have a grasp on the facts.