There seems to have been let loose in the land the notion that the only thing the package addressed was the creation of new jobs and in addition that it was not supposed to address other spending needs that would create missing demand in the economy. It was easy for the Republicans to criticise the plan on the jobs issue because in a sense the President set himself up on this one. This is unfortunately the sphere where politics and policy do not often mix well. Seeing unemployment as an indicator on which average Americans can easily be appealed to, it quickly was picked up on as the only criterion for the stimulus package. In any downturn, two indicators are usually looked at: unemployment and the reduction in GDP.
A recession is defined by the latter, not the former, but the former is usually more socially painful and therefore more politically sensitive. We do not know exactly how many jobs the $789 billion stimulus package will generate--between 2-4 million seems the range of speculation. However, what is forgotten in looking merely at job creation is the need to prevent further job loss. If we are losing over half a million jobs a month under current circumstances, the above figures would soon be overwhelmed if the lack of stimulus in the economy did not sustain the current levels of employment before any new jobs are created. I do not hear any one talking about this, but is seems so evident.
What the opponents of the stimulus package need to have understood, is that in addition to the jobs created and saved, the economy is in a downward spiral and needs a jump start to begin moving in the opposite direction. Only massive spending can do that, almost any kind of spending so long as the funds flowing from the government get spent by someone. So why not put these funds into useful programs that most reasonable folks can agree are needed as a way of creating this increase in demand? Yes, look out for pure pork--although believe it or not and Heaven Forbid, many so-called pork programs are really local projects that are very much needed in communties--and waste and inefficiency, but using a purely "job creation" criterion demonstrates that most of our legislators in this country could well use a course in Economics 101. Too bad John Kenneth Galbraith is no longer around to give some lessons.