What Matters on the Economy.

The New York Times has two stories today on the stimulus package, now a year old. One is an analysis from David Leonhardt on how the stimulus has actually worked pretty well. It's just hard for the average American to tell because President Obama oversold it a tad -- how else would he get Congress to vote for so much spending? -- and because much of the its success was in keeping unemployment and the economy from getting worse, which is hard to see.

Another is on how Mississippi and 20 other states, after waiting to see what the economy would do on its own, finally started to use some of the stimulus money to pay the wages of private employees directly.

The debate over a new jobs bill in Congress — where the Senate is considering a wavering agreement supported by the Obama administration — largely centers on other approaches, like modest payroll tax breaks for businesses that hire and more spending on infrastructure.

Lately, however, with the unemployment rate stubbornly hovering near 10 percent, some liberal economists have urged the Obama administration to take a more direct tack: they want the government to spend money directly to create jobs, much as it did during the New Deal. Some call it the most cost-effective way for the government to create jobs.

All of that feeds into why Sen. Harry Reid stripped the Senate jobs bill of some of the tax breaks and select spending meant to draw Republican support. Without an assurance Republicans would vote for the jobs bill, Reid said what mattered most is creating jobs.

Democrats said Mr. Reid’s hand was forced by objections from rank-and-file Democrats that the measure was not focused tightly enough on job creation and included too many corporate tax breaks they viewed as concessions to Republicans.

Unfortunately, the jobs bill might not do much good. But, if this means that Democrats finally realize that results voters can see matter more than bipartisanship, it might be a good start.

-- Monica Potts

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