WASHINGTON -- Even economists who agree with Barack Obama that we need another stimulus are questioning his exuberant predictions that his spending plan will produce or save 3.7 million jobs.
That number was contained in the upwardly revised job-creation figures that economic advisers Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer came out with this week in an effort to boost congressional support for Obama's costly stimulus package amid growing skepticism that it will work.
But buried in the news accounts of the new, hard-to-believe estimates -- or ignored altogether -- was a caveat that Bernstein and Romer slipped into their memo to the president-elect: "It should be noted that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," the two advisers wrote.
They also warned that there's a limit to how much money the federal and state bureaucracies can effectively dish out to public-works projects in the two-year time frame that Obama has set to have a significant impact on the recession.
His advisers have justifiable reasons to be leery of their own numbers. Other economists, even those who believe another stimulus is needed, are questioning Obama's huge job numbers and the availability of shovel-ready projects that can begin putting people back to work.
"There's not enough shovel-ready (projects), so to speak. I'm skeptical of how you're going to do that in a two-year period," UCLA Anderson Forecast senior economist David Shulman told the Washington Post.
At the same time, budget analysts are beginning to voice similar doubts about the economic viability of dumping more than $500 billion into public-works projects and the long-term harm a looming $2 trillion deficit could do to the credibility of the dollar, the bond market and our financial system.
Even moderate fiscal watchdogs who see the need for some additional stimulus now question whether Obama and the Democrats are using the recession as a ruse to unleash the big-spending plans that eight years of Republican rule have prevented them from making.
"When we are talking about an $800 billion package on top of a $1.2 trillion deficit, it is necessary to draw a distinction between what constitutes stimulus and what is business-as-usual government largess," said Maya MacGuineas, the fiscal-savvy president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in a statement last week.
"If we think about massive deficit spending as medicine for a sick economy, we also need to recognize that too much medicine can ultimately kill the patient," MacGuineas said.