Donald Lambro

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is critical of it, too. One CBO study showed only a fraction of the stimulus money would be spent by the end of this year, and perhaps only half by 2010 when it is quite likely the recession will be over. Jason Furman, Obama's campaign economist, said last year that infrastructure spending was one of the "less effective" stimulus plans.

Obama's claim that his plan will preserve or create nearly 4 million jobs came from a memorandum by two of his economic advisers, Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer. The memo noted, however, "that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margin of error."

Throughout his news conference, the president went to great pains to characterize this recession as the worst ever. No one doubts its ferocity, but is this really "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression" or "an unprecedented problem," as he described it Monday night?

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933, unemployment was nearly 25 percent, banks went under, businesses were closing left and right, home foreclosures skyrocketed, and the stock market crashed.

Last month, unemployment was more than 7 percent. Weekly economic data is routinely reported to be the lowest or the highest since the recession of 1990-1991 when the jobless rate hit 7 percent, or the recession of 1981-1982 when the unemployment rate peaked at about 10 percent.

As for the debate over whether spending massive sums of borrowed money will jump-start the economy, Obama said that was an issue we had "resolved a pretty long time ago" under the New Deal.

But for all the New Deal spending on public-works projects, the jobless rate near the end of the 1930s stood at around 19 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sadly, no reporter at Monday night's press conference asked Obama to point to one place or time where his plan had worked before. Ironically, he mentioned Japan's painful experience throughout the 1990s when it tried one public-works infrastructure-spending plan after another. But he did not connect the dots. Japan spent hundreds of billions of dollars, but without any improvement in its economy for the entire "lost decade."

There's a painful lesson to be learned there, but one that Obama and his economic advisers refuse to acknowledge.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.