Understanding the Dreaded Stimulus

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Two links this morning for people still trying to make sense of that massive political pinata, the $787  billion stimulus plan. One is a Times article focused on something I’ve posted about before, which is the fact that precious few Americans understand that the stimulus contained plenty of tax cuts (about 40 percent overall, including $116 billion–or about 15 percent–in income tax reductions), even though the way some politicians tell it you’d be forgiven for thinking the whole package was taken outside and burned, or maybe given to whatever’s left of ACORN.

Then there’s this question of why Obama is now complaining that all those shovel-ready projects weren’t actually so ready for the shovels. Republicans have been pouncing on this point as an admission that “the stimulus was a policy disaster.” Ezra Klein investigates further in a Q&A with  White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein which helps explain what Obama meant, why it hardly amounts to conceding failure, and some other easy-to-grasp basics about the stimulus. (Whether Obama’s choice of words on the eve of an election was politicall judicious is another matter.)

P.S. For a lot more detail you can read the recently-released fiscal-year-end report to the president from the vice president on the stimulus’ implementation.