After being asked when the public should begin judging the success of the nearly $800 billion stimulus plan, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs answered, "I think we should begin to judge it now."
Let's take his advice.
The administration warned that if we failed to support a stimulus package, unemployment would hit a dire 9 percent by 2010. With the stimulus, unemployment, it claimed, would stay in the 8 percent range.
This week, the Labor Department announced that the jobless rate jumped to 9.5 percent, higher than it's been anytime since August 1983.
It's not as if the administration was close. As The New York Times notes: "The difference between the situation that the Obama advisers predicted and the one that has come to pass is about 2.5 million jobs. It's as if every worker in the city of Los Angeles received an unexpected layoff notice."
Don't get too dejected, though. We still have an economic plan with a heaping dose of hope. Surely, you'll feel better when the president begins doling out his two-pronged faith-based explanation -- and if we're lucky, he'll do it at a "town hall" meeting with approximately 100 of his closest friends.
First, you always should assume things could have been worse.
This leap of faith involves buying the "save-and-created-jobs" myth the president likes to peddle. And if you're lucky enough to be working on some state-run boondoggle awash in freshly printed money, smile. As for the rest of America, we once again learn that government spending rarely spurs wider economic prosperity.
But let's, for argument's sake, make believe that the stimulus plan has saved or created 150,000 jobs.
By the end of June, $53 billion in stimulus funding had been spent on weatherizing projects, bridges for rodents and checks for 10,000 formerly living Americans. (This administration doesn't only create jobs; it creates life.) That puts the cost of each job saved at about $354,000, or exactly the sort of efficiency you expect from D.C.
The "things-could-have-been-worse" argument is nothing new, and neither is the second line of defense: Blame capitalism.
So let's also pretend, for the moment, that an era of widespread deregulation spurred a global recession. What exactly has Obama done to mitigate it?
Instead of exerting his extraordinary political capital to bolster American business, the president was busy targeting the investor class; instead of easing the burden on the middle class, Obama radically increased spending and debt; instead of encouraging market innovation, Washington has bolstered the status quo by bailing out antiquated, poorly run industries and crowding out small businesses.
Obama now urges Americans to be patient on the stimulus package. Yet at the same time, the president exhibits a decisive lack of patience as he sprints forward with generational tax increases, in both cap and trade policy and a trillion-dollar-plus health care "reform."
Not surprisingly, many polls illustrate an increasing skepticism regarding the stimulus package and a growing distrust of Washington's unparalleled meddling in the economy. According to a June Rasmussen poll, a plurality of Americans now want government stimulus spending to be canceled.
This rising unease did not stop White House counselor David Axelrod from recently declaring that a second stimulus might be needed.
Needed to do what, one wonders? "Save and create" another 150,000 imaginary jobs?
One day, we will emerge from recession; we always do. And on that day, Obama almost certainly will take credit.
But one wonders: When will the glorious "new era of responsibility" ever actually kick in?
After all, as of right now, judging solely from the administration's very own promises and timeline, we are left with nothing to show for an irresponsible spending binge.
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