American Action Network Impugns Herseth Sandlin In Latest Attack On Stimulus

October 25, 2010 2:50 pm ET

The American Action Network (AAN) is out with a new attack ad aimed at Rep. Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) over her support for the Recovery Act. AAN's ad decries stimulus projects involving "African ants" and "road crossings for turtles" that were funded by the Recovery Act, but ignores the fact that specific projects such as these were not directly included in the bill. Moreover, the supposedly "wasteful" Recovery Act helped us avoid another Great Depression and created millions of new American jobs. 

American Action Network: "Stimulus"

America is $13 trillion in debt yet Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin keeps on spending, voting for the $800 billion stimulus they promised would create jobs. Instead, our money was wasted upgrading offices for DC bureaucrats, studying African ants, and building road crossings for turtles. Now they want to do it again. Tell Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin to vote "no" on a second, wasteful stimulus in November. American Action Network is responsible for the content of this advertising. 

The Recovery Act Created Millions Of Jobs And Turned The Economy Around

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Was Passed. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro:

From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs. [, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Based on Shapiro's research, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein created the following chart showing net job losses before and after the Recovery Act was enacted:


[Washington Post8/12/10]

CBO: The Recovery Act Created Jobs, Lowered Unemployment, And Boosted GDP. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, through the second quarter of 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

  • Raised the level of real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million compared with what those amounts would have been otherwise.

[CBO, 8/24/10]

Reuters: The Recovery Act May Have "Prevented The Sluggish Economy From Contracting" Between April And June. According to Reuters

The massive U.S. stimulus package put millions of people to work and boosted national output by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second quarter, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

CBO's latest estimate indicates that the stimulus effort, which remains a political hot potato ahead of the November congressional elections, may have prevented the sluggish U.S. economy from contracting between April and June.

CBO said President Barack Obama's stimulus boosted real GDP in the quarter by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent, adding at least $200 billion in economic activity. [Reuters via ABC News, 8/24/10]

Job Statistics Trend Shows Recovery Act Is Working. Below is a graph prepared by the Speaker's office showing net private sector job gains or losses per month since December 2007.


[Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Gavel, 10/8/10]

Princeton, Moody's Economists Say "Highly Effective" Government Response To Crisis Saved 8.5 Million Jobs. According to the New York Times: "Like a mantra, officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations have trumpeted how the government's sweeping interventions to prop up the economy since 2008 helped avert a second Depression. Now, two leading economists wielding complex quantitative models say that assertion can be empirically proved. In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus program, the nation's gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year. In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation. The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years. 'While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,' they write." [New York Times7/27/10, emphasis added]

African Ants

The Recovery Act "Didn't Release Money For Ant Research Directly." According to

But the stimulus didn't release money for ant research directly, and you won't find a "study of ants" in the bill's text.

Instead, the federal stimulus gave $3 billion to the National Science Foundation, which otherwise had a budget of about $6.5 billion in 2009. The foundation is an independent federal agency devoted to the progress of science. It distributed the stimulus money using the same peer-review process that it normally uses to decide which scientific research deserves funding. [, 9/20/10]

Ant Research Money Created Jobs And Funded "Big Impact" Study.  In a "Truth Test" article addressing the validity of another ad from American Crossroads attacking Michael Bennet (D-CO) for his support of the stimulus, Denver NBC affiliate 9 News reported:

However, the two examples cited in the commercial don't remotely account for billions in government spending. This is the first time in the Truth Test's decade in existence that it has critiqued "research on ants" and the "effects of cocaine on monkeys." We are pleased to bring you this information, as it was illuminating to us as well.

The first example dealing with ants is in reality a $1.9 million grant to the California Academy of Sciences to send researchers to the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands and east Africa to chronicle some of most exotic of the 22,000 ant species worldwide. The stimulus money created 16 jobs in the process. The principal researcher on the project said, "Consider that the collective weight of all the ants in the world is equal to the weight of all the world's humans. It's a big subject with a big impact. That alone makes ants worthy of scientific study." 

[, 9/2/10; in-text citation deleted for clarity]


"Turtle Crossing" Improves Highway Safety. From the

Tallahassee, Florida -- Laugh if you will, but state transportation officials and wildlife researchers say a $3.4 million pair of tunnels under a busy North Florida highway is a serious safety project -- for people, too.


But Kevin Thibault, assistant secretary for engineering and operations in the state Department of Transportation, said the "turtle tunnel" ridicule missed a couple of salient points. First, the money won't detract from interstate highways or airports, but will come from a small "enhancement" pot that is set aside for just such work.

And second, the twin tunnels under a four-lane stretch of U.S. 27 north of Tallahassee will be big enough for a deer to scamper through -- thus making the road a lot safer for motorists who don't want to hit one at 50 or 60 miles an hour. An alligator or turtle can be a highly hazardous speed bump in the dark, said DOT spokesman Dick Kane. [, 6/21/09]

Wildlife Passage Only Uses Small Portion Of Florida's Budget. From "'The federal stimulus package that was passed by Congress funded a lot of transportation and safety projects,' said Thibault. He said Florida's $1.35 billion DOT share includes about $900 million for major transportation projects, $400 million for local roads and bridges and $40 million for 'enhancement' work like the Lake Jackson tunnels." [, 6/21/09]

Highway Would Never Be Built As-Is With Today's Standards. From "Jack Kostrzewa, planning manager for the Capital Regional Transportaiton [sic] Planning Agency, and Matt Aresco, director of the Nokuse Plantation wildlife preserve in Walton County, said U.S. 27 would never be built as it is if today's environmental standards were in place 50 years ago. Aresco said about 62 species need to cross the road in the forests around Lake Jackson. 'It's a safety issue,' said Kostrezewa. 'We're trying to separate wildlife from the road.'" [, 6/21/09]

Wildlife Passages In Florida Are Common. From "Thibault said 'there are a lot of these types of crossings' around the state, for black bears, the Florida Panther and other critters trying to coexist with the intrusion of traffic, housing and business into once-wilderness lands across the state. 'There's a lot of misinformation about it. It's not a turtle crossing, it's a wildlife passage,' said Kostrezewa. 'It's a safety issue in an environmentally sensitive area.'" [, 6/21/09]

Wildlife Passage Is Popular Locally. From the New York Times:

And Florida's plan to build a wall and culverts to help turtles cross a deadly stretch of road by Lake Jackson near Tallahassee was mocked by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, in a report he issued in questioning many stimulus projects.

"Why did the turtle cross the road?" the report asked. "To get to the other side of a stimulus project."

But local advocates have sought the passage there for years, monitoring the steady stream of turtle deaths, building the temporary fence that protects turtles there now and mounting a large grass-roots campaign that eventually won state support for a more permanent "eco-passage."

[New York Times8/17/09, emphasis added]