The stimulus plan was designed to fail- not deliberately, probably, but in effect. It reflected priorities other than job creation or preservation, as had been advertized. It was not timely- we're still waiting for most of it to be implemented- and it was not focused. It was scattershot. At the time I likened it to "Shooting Wild Hogs with a Shotgun."
But, let's be fair. The fact that employment has continued to fall and unemployment has continued to rise is not sufficient evidence of its failure. That was already baked into the cake, and I expect those trends to continue for some time even if the stimulus package is working. Unemployment will peak above 10 percent, if not 11 percent.
The question, of course, is whether the unemployment rate will rise less than it would have without the stimulus package. My answer is probably yes, but not by much. I doubt that many net new jobs will be created, but some job losses may be averted by cash infusions to the states on the verge of more layoffs. But the modest gains I expect will come at much too high a price in terms of the future burden of the much higher deficits and debt. Some immediate tax-rate relief would have been much more effective and much less costly.
But my main message here is that critics of the stimulus bill don't serve their side of the debate well by judging it against unreasonable standards. I've heard some politicians say before actual working cameras that the stimulus package must be judged a failure because unemployment has risen further since it was enacted. Some have expressly ridiculed the counter-factual argument regarding what might have been.
Such politicians and pundits are making it harder for me to stay on their side by insulting my intelligence and the intelligence of the American people. Their case would be stronger if they stuck to legitimate arguments, and they wouldn't look so foolish.