Read all posts from December 2009

  • There's a new report out from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the economic impact of the Recovery Act. I'll get to the findings in a second, but somebody over at the Wall St. Journal's editorial page has a whole lot of explaining to do.

    Here what CBO found:

    Between its inception in February of this year and the end of September, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has:

    • Saved or Created up to 1.6 Million Jobs (midpoint estimate: 1.1 million)
    • Added up to 3.2% to the Growth of Real GDP (midpoint estimate: 2.2%)
    • Reduced the Unemployment Rate by as Much as 0.9 Percentage Points (midpoint estimate: 0.6 ppt)

    Now, these numbers may look familiar to you... they're about what we and other analysts have been citing all along (e.g., see Tables seven and eight in this CEA report).

    On the other hand, if you read the Wall St. Journal, these numbers will surprise you. Or, to be more precise, if you read the editorial page, you'll be in the dark. If you read the front page in today's WSJ, you'll learn the facts about the CBO report noted above in the context of an article that documents the importance of stimulus projects to construction workers. In fact, the article worries about jobs cuts once the stimulus fades.

    So, how does this square with lines like these from Journal editorials?

    "No matter how hard or imaginatively the administration spins, the reality is that the stimulus has been the economic bust that critics predicted it would be." –November 19, 2009

    "…the largest obstacle to turning this recovery into a durable expansion is now the very 'stimulus' programs that were sold as a way to ensure recovery." –October 30, 2009

     "We aren’t getting much bang for our $787 billion stimulus bucks." –November 25, 2009

    "It's hard to imagine a more complete repudiation of Keynesian stimulus than the evidence of the last year’s job market." –November 7, 2009

    "[The Recovery Act has not] made even the smallest dent in employment." –November 7, 2009

    "The White House says the stimulus created as many as one million new jobs, but this is single-entry economic bookkeeping." –November 7, 2009

    They don’t square at all, of course, because the editorial board is more interested in scoring political points by discrediting the Recovery Act's jobs impact than they are in reading their own paper’s reporting.   And let's be clear: while the new CBO findings are a welcome addition, these facts have been out there for months, including from an earlier CBO report last March (their updated findings are actually slightly improved).

    We're not asking for a free ride. We have and will continue to take great pains to provide information about the impact of the Recovery Act with more transparency than has ever been associated with a project of this magnitude.  Editorialists have every right to use that information to evaluate the impact of the act and to suggest ways that its performance could be improved upon.

    But I doubt you'll see that from the WSJ. Unless, that is, they start reading their own reporting.

    Jared Bernstein is Chief Economist to Vice President Biden and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force

  • Today, on World AIDS Day, we take a moment to recognize those living with AIDS and the organizations dedicated to HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment. There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS today in the United States. Another 56,000 Americans contract HIV each year and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 21% of HIV-positive people don’t know that they are infected.  That means that, of those who are currently HIV-positive, one in five are living their lives unaware that they are carrying the disease. In a recent proclamation, President Obama recognized the world’s struggle to combat the deadly HIV/AIDS virus and the Administration’s commitment to the cause:

    Our Nation joins the world in celebrating the extraordinary advancements we have made in the battle against HIV and AIDS, and remembering those we have lost. Over the past three decades, brave men and women have fought devastating discrimination, stigma, doubt, and violence as they stood in the face of this deadly disease. Many of them would not be here today, but for the dedication of other persons living with HIV, their loved ones and families, community advocates, and members of the medical profession. On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to developing a national AIDS strategy that will establish the priorities necessary to combat this devastating epidemic at home, and to renewing our leadership role and commitments abroad.

    The President continued by discussing the national AIDS strategy:

    Tackling this disease will take an aggressive, steadfast approach. My Administration is developing a national HIV/AIDS strategy to bolster our response to the domestic epidemic, and a global health initiative that will build on [President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] PEPFAR's success. We will develop a strategy to reduce HIV incidence, improve access to care, and help eliminate HIV-related health disparities. We have already ensured that visitors to our shores living with HIV are not marginalized and discriminated against because of their HIV status. We have also secured the continuation of critical HIV/AIDS care and treatment services. Today, we recommit ourselves to building on the accomplishments of the past decades that have dramatically changed the domestic and global HIV/AIDS landscape.

    Read the full proclamation or visit the Office of National AIDS Policy for more information.

    The Administration’s commitment to combating HIV/AIDS was also seen in yesterday’s announcement by leading government and White House officials that the blog post by Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, provides details on this momentous event.

    Government agencies are getting their workforces involved in World AIDS Day through events, including: an employee fair at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that highlights volunteerism with HIV/AIDS organizations; HIV/AIDS training for employees at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who are interested in volunteering at Atlanta AIDS Service organizations; and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employee training highlighting the impact of FDA approved HIV drugs worldwide.

    And of course, innovative new media initiatives provide the opportunity for you to get involved:

    To learn more about HIV/AIDS and federal resources available for individuals, families, and communities, visit

  • If you're an avid reader of this blog or you've been following the health insurance reform process closely, you probably know by now that reform will strengthen Medicare and keep the Medicare trust fund in the black for an additional five years. So you might find it curious that opponents of reform continue to repeat the false claim that health insurance reform will take Medicare money away from seniors to pay for other folks’ health care.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the age-old Washington tactics that has prevented us from fixing our broken health care system for decades.  This time, though, we can’t afford to settle for the same old political games. 

    So here’s a reminder about what health insurance reform actually means for Medicare and America’s seniors – and about the record that some Republicans making these claims have when it comes to Medicare.

    As President Obama has said repeatedly, Medicare is a sacred trust with America’s seniors.  That's why health insurance reform protects and strengthens Medicare, keeping the program’s finances in the black for an additional five years. Not one penny from the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for reform and no guaranteed benefits will be cut. Period.

    In fact, the only people who will be getting less money are the big insurance companies who have received hundreds of billions of dollars in overpayments from America's taxpayers. 

    So while big insurance companies get less, the Senate bill will ensure that seniors get better, more affordable care – providing a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs for seniors who fall into the so-called donut hole, making preventive care free, and investing in primary care among other measures.

    Those improvements to the Medicare program stand in stark contrast to the record of congressional Republicans in recent years.  Last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, it took them just 6 years to cost the Medicare trust fund two decades of solvency. 

    The failure to fix a broken health care system allowed the ranks of the uninsured to grow by millions and moved Medicare's bankruptcy date up by years. When Congress finally did act, it did so irresponsibly – with a Medicare drug bill that wasn’t paid for, added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit and created the overpayments that are bankrupting Medicare and inflating premiums today.

    If we allow opponents of reform to successfully defend the insurance companies and the unsustainable status quo once again, we'll see Medicare go broke in eight years, while seniors pay higher drug prices and lose access to their doctors. That's not acceptable – and it won't happen.