Two Years Of Economic Recovery

February 17, 2011 9:46 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Two years ago, congressional Republicans welcomed President Obama into the White House by stridently opposing his effort to rescue the plunging economy. At a time when businesses were laying off hundreds of thousands of workers per month, Republicans who had spent years in power racking up debt were unwilling to compromise on even a scaled-back stimulus bill. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act garnered support from zero Republicans in the House and just three in the Senate.

On February 17, 2009, Obama signed the Recovery Act into law, saying, "Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles. But it does mark the beginning of the end." In the 24 months since, Republican politicians have simultaneously railed against the law, deriding it as a "failure" and denying that it created jobs, and taken credit for its success. Meanwhile, the devastating job losses that Obama inherited have turned into job gains: the economy added about 1.1 million jobs in 2010, more than the combined total of President Bush's eight years in office.   

After cynically rooting against the recovery for two years, Republican lawmakers no longer ignore the signs of progress. Instead, they are shamelessly crediting their new House majority and Obama's bipartisan tax compromise for job creation and GDP growth that predated both. And after campaigning on an incessant chorus of "Where are the jobs?" Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) now says that if Republican policies cause job losses, "so be it."  

Check out Political Correction's graphic timeline and read our history of the recovery below the fold (click to enlarge):

September 15, 2008: Sen. McCain Says "The Fundamentals Of Our Economy Are Strong." At a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida, GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." [Huffington Post, 9/15/08]

January 2009: The Economy Loses 841,000 Private Sector Jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. private sector shed 841,000 jobs in January 2009. From January 2008 through July 2009, the economy lost an average of nearly 400,000 private-sector jobs per month. [Bureau of Labor Statistics data, accessed 2/15/11]

February 9, 2009: Rep. Boehner Calls Recovery Act "Generational Theft." In a blog post for AmericaSpeakOn.org, Rep. John Boehner wrote: "The hundreds of billions of dollars Washington is borrowing to finance this pork-barrel monstrosity will come from our children and grandchildren. This is not 'stimulus' - it's generational theft." [AmericaSpeakOn.org via ThinkProgress, 2/8/09, emphasis added]

February 13, 2009: House Approves Recovery Act With Zero GOP Votes. From the New York Times: "Congress on Friday approved a $787 billion economic stimulus measure, meeting the crushing mid-February deadline that Democrats had set for adopting the centerpiece of President Obama's early agenda but without quelling partisan divisions in Washington. Not a single House Republican voted for the bill. The House vote was 246 to 183, with just 7 Democrats joining all 176 Republicans in opposition. In the Senate, the vote, 60 to 38, was similarly partisan. Only 3 centrist Republicans joined 55 Democrats and 2 independents in favor." [New York Times, 2/13/09, emphasis added]

June 15, 2009: Rep. Boehner Admits That Recovery Act "Will Create Much-Needed Jobs." In a press release, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) declared: "The stated intent of the so-called stimulus package was to create jobs, and certainly a $57 million slush-fund studying projects did nothing to achieve that goal.  With Ohio's unemployment rate the highest it's been in 25 years, I'm pleased that federal officials stepped in to order Ohio to use all of its construction dollars for shovel-ready projects that will create much-needed jobs." [Boehner statement, 6/15/09, emphasis added]

July 6, 2009: Rep. Cantor Declares That The Recovery Act "Did Not" Work. The Hill reported: "Pushing back against a possible second stimulus bill, Cantor asserted that the Obama administration-backed first $787 billion stimulus has not worked, and insisted that characterization has now become consensus. 'I think we all need to recognize that the first attempt of the stimulus bill did not stimulate the economy,' Cantor said in a conference call sponsored by the Republican National Committee (RNC). 'I think we all agree on that now.'" [The Hill, 7/6/09, emphasis added]

August 17, 2009: Rep. Cantor Hosts Stimulus-Funded Job Fair. As reported by ThinkProgress: "On Monday, [Rep. Eric] Cantor hosted a job fair in Midlothian, VA, to demonstrate how he - and not the Obama administration - is working on 'long-term solutions that will put Virginia businesses and Virginia workers back on the path to financial stability.' ... The Recovery Act created and saved jobs by injecting funds into local governments, while also fueling demand in the private sector by spurring improvements to infrastructure and other critical projects. ThinkProgress found ... that many jobs represented by employers at the job fair were a direct result of those funds." [ThinkProgress, 8/20/09, emphasis added]

Q3 2009: GDP Increases For First Time In A Year. MarketWatch reported: "The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in two years during the third quarter, but the revised annual growth rate of 2.2% was much slower than what the government initially reported. U.S. real gross domestic product increased for the first time since the spring of 2008, boosted by higher consumer spending -- especially on autos -- as well as a rebound in investments in homes, a slower pace of inventory reduction, more exports, and robust government spending, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Before growing in the June-through-September quarter, the U.S. economy had shrunk for four straight quarters -- the first time it had done so since the Great Depression." [MarketWatch, 12/22/09, emphasis added]

October 5, 2009: Rep. Phil Gingrey Hands Out Giant Stimulus Check. As reported by the Cedartown Standard: "U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey presented a $625,000 check to the City of Cedartown Monday. The money comes from federal stimulus funds and will fund the second phase of Cedartown's Streetscape project, with new sidewalks, landscaping and other improvements to the downtown area." [Cedartown Standard, 10/5/09]

November 24, 2009: Rep. Cantor Hosts Another Stimulus-Funded Job Fair. According to the Washington Post: "Nearly half of the 30 organizations participating in a job fair Cantor is holding Monday in Culpeper were recipients of the stimulus. The list includes a slew of government agencies and schools that have directly benefited from the package and may be using stimulus money to hire people (as the money was originally designed to do), including the Orange County public schools, the Transportation Security Administration and Virginia Department of Labor, and some companies that may have indirectly benefited such as Comcast and Terremark." [Washington Post, 11/18/09, emphasis added]

November 24, 2009: Rep. Cantor Calls The Recovery Act "An Utter Failure." From the Star Exponent: "About 750 well-dressed job seekers passed through the job fair Monday at which Cantor spent a couple hours interacting with job hunters and potential employers. ... Asked if he thought the economy was getting better as growth in the gross domestic product seems to indicate, Cantor said no. ... Cantor, as he has repeatedly in recent weeks and months, condemned the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress in February as 'an utter failure.'" [Star Exponent, 11/24/09, emphasis added]

November 30, 2009: CBO Reports That Recovery Act Created Or Saved Up To 1.6 Million Jobs. As reported by Bloomberg News: "President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package has generated between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs, according to a new government report likely to become fodder in debates on additional efforts to combat unemployment. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the $787 billion stimulus package approved in February lowered the nation's unemployment rate by between 0.3 and 0.9 percentage points while boosting the economy by between 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent. The analysis also found that three-quarters of the money provided in the stimulus had yet to be funneled into the economy by the end of September." [Bloomberg, 12/1/09]

December 16, 2009: Rep. Geoff Davis Says The Recovery Act "Failed."  From a press release from Rep. Geoff Davis's (R-KY) office: "On what was likely to be the final day of votes in the House of Representatives for 2009, Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced passage of a $150 billion extension of her failed trillion dollar 'Stimulus' bill that was enacted in February." [Davis Press Release, 12/16/09, emphasis added]

December 16, 2009: Rep. Geoff Davis Trumpets His Role In "Obtaining These Funds" From The Recovery Act. According to a press releases from Rep. Geoff Davis' (R-KY) office: "Congressman Geoff Davis is pleased to announce that the Carroll County School District has been awarded $1,044,140 in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) Early Head Start Expansion Program. ... Congressman Davis stated, "In these difficult economic times, it is critical to ensure that vulnerable populations in Kentucky have access to important support services like those provided by the Early Head Start program.  This important grant will allow Carroll County School District to expand their ability to provide needed assistance to local low-income families and children. I am very proud of the work that the Carroll County School District is doing to strengthen their community, and I am pleased that our office was able to assist them in obtaining these funds." [Davis Press Release, 12/16/09, emphasis added]

December 17, 2009: CBPP Credits Recovery Act With "Keeping More Than 6 Million Americans Out Of Poverty." According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "In addition to keeping more than 6 million Americans out of poverty in 2009, ARRA is reducing the severity of poverty for 33 million additional Americans who are poor by lifting their incomes, typically by more than $700. Due to data limitations, these figures are conservative and underestimate the number of people that the seven ARRA provisions examined here have helped in 2009." [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12/17/09]

February 16, 2010: WSJ Reports That Rep. Paul Ryan Requested Stimulus Grant "To Place 1,000 Workers In Green Jobs." From the Wall Street Journal: "More than a dozen Republican lawmakers supported stimulus-funding requests submitted to the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service, in letters obtained by The Wall Street Journal through the Freedom of Information Act. ... Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who called the stimulus a 'wasteful spending spree' that 'misses the mark on all counts,' wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, 'intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.'" [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/10, emphasis added]

February 22, 2010: Bloomberg Reports On "More Than 100" Republicans Who Requested Stimulus Funds. According to Bloomberg News: "Alabama Republicans Jo Bonner and Robert Aderholt took to the U.S. House floor in July, denouncing the Obama administration's stimulus plan for failing to boost employment. 'Where are the jobs?' each of them asked. Over the next three months, Bonner and Aderholt tried at least five times to steer stimulus-funded transportation grants to Alabama on grounds that the projects would help create thousands of jobs. They joined more than 100 congressional Republicans and several Democrats who, after voting against the stimulus bill, wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seeking money from $1.5 billion the plan set aside for local road, bridge, rail and transit grants. The $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year with no Republican votes in the House and three in the Senate." [Bloomberg, 2/22/10]

March 2010: Private Sector Adds 144,000 Jobs. In March 2010, the private sector added 144,000 jobs, the first positive monthly total since January 2008. [Bureau of Labor Statistics data, accessed 2/15/10]

August 10, 2010: Rep. Pence Hosts Stimulus-Funded Job Fair. CBS News reported: "While on the House floor criticizing the aid package on Tuesday, Pence pointed to a jobs fair he hosted yesterday in his district as an example of Americans 'reaching for a better future.' He failed to mention, however, that a number of the employers present at the job fair were recipients of stimulus funding." [CBS News, 8/11/10, emphasis added]

August 24, 2010: Rep. Boehner Says "All This 'Stimulus' Spending Has Gotten Us Nowhere." In a speech at the City Club of Cleveland, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) stated, "All this 'stimulus' spending has gotten us nowhere." [Boehner Speech, 8/24/10]

August 24, 2010: CBO Reports The Stimulus Increased Employment By Up To 3.3 Million Jobs In Second Quarter Of 2010. As reported by MarketWatch: "In a report published the same day as Minority Leader John Boehner's criticism of President Obama's economic policy, the CBO said the stimulus law boosted the economy by between 1.7% and 4.5%, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million. In practice, that means the stimulus plan is the main reason the U.S. economy grew during the second quarter." [MarketWatch, 8/24/10, emphasis added]

Q4 2010: Economy Grows At Fastest Rate In Six Years. From CNNMoney.com: "The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in more than six years during the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a government report Friday. The nation's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, rose at a 5.7% annual rate in the fourth quarter. That was much stronger than expected and provides another sign that a recovery in the economy is taking hold." [CNNMoney.com, 1/29/10]

January 24, 2011: Several Leading Republicans Take Credit For Signs Of Recovery. As Talking Points Memo reported: "Citing a Dow Jones story reporting that U.S. companies plan to increase hiring, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's press shop fired off a morning roundup including this sub headline: 'THERE ARE THE JOBS: Republicans Prevent Massive Tax Increase, Economy Begins to Improve.' The Dow Jones story does not credit Republicans for the recovery. In recent weeks, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and David Dreier (R-CA) have separately claimed credit for different economic metrics. Kyl claimed that the GOP's November victory and the resulting tax cut compromise caused 2010's annual corporate profits to skyrocket. Dreier claimed that recent jobs numbers wouldn't be as promising as they have been if the GOP hadn't swept back into power." [Talking Points Memo, 1/24/11]

January 2011: Private Sector Adds Jobs For 11th Consecutive Month. In January 2011, the private sector added 50,000 jobs, marking the 11th consecutive month of private-sector job gains. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 2/15/11]

-- Graphic by Drew Gardner; Salvatore Colleluori and Julia Krieger contributed research to this post.


UPDATE: We have updated the graphic timeline to reflect jobs added in February 2011, the 12th consecutive month of private-sector job gains:

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