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Obama’s stimulus, 5 years later

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President Barack Obama winks as he is welcomed before speaking to the House Democratic Issues Conference in Cambridge, Md., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. The president said top priorities for Congress should be increasing the minimum wage and reforming immigration. Obama told a House Democratic retreat Friday that the party needs to stand up for the American dream of getting ahead. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)THE ASSOCIATED PRESS2014

Five years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. The $830 billion spending blowout was sold by the White House as a way to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. But the stimulus would fail on its own terms. 2009 marked the first of four straight years when unemployment averaged more than 8 percent.

And of course the unemployment rate would have been even worse in those years and still today if so many people had not quit the labor force, driving labor-participation rates to 1970s levels.

The Obama White House had been egged on by liberal economists like Paul Krugman, who in November of 2008 recommended a stimulus of at least $600 billion. Team Obama worked with Democrats in Congress to exceed his minimum request by more than 30 percent. But after the failure of the stimulus the same liberal economists who had enthusiastically supported the plan would claim that its main flaw was that it was too small.

Shortly after the passage of the Recovery Act in 2009, Vice President Joseph Biden urged local politicians not to spend the money on "stupid things."

They ignored his advice, and so did Mr. Biden.

Click for James Freeman’s complete column.