When the economic crisis was at its lowest point in early 2009, President Obama and Congress passed the Recovery Act, providing middle-class tax cuts, aid to state budgets, and money for important projects. These measures staved off a worse crisis and helped add jobs in the midst of increasing unemployment.
Many members of Congress understood how important these projects were. For instance, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. got a $20.3 million grant, requested by their member of Congress, to invest in energy efficiency for homes and businesses.
However, the Recovery Act has come under attack from some politicians, who have falsely said it didn’t create jobs or help shore up the economy. These myths are easily debunked, but they’ve been pretty stubborn—in part because the recession was deeper than anyone realized at the time, in part because people often confuse the Recovery Act with the TARP bank bailouts, and in part because partisan media outlets like Fox News keep amplifying and repeating the lies.
So you had some members of Congress using the Recovery Act to boost the economy in their districts, and some who attacked it as wasteful and unnecessary. Sometimes, those two sets of people overlap:
The congressman’s denial came as new audio surfaced of Ryan telling Boston’s WBZ Radio two years ago that he “did not ask for stimulus money” in response to a caller’s question about the recovery program. “I’m not one who votes for something and then writes to the government to ask them to send us money,” Ryan said. The exchange was first reported Thursday by The Boston Globe.
It’s true: Rep. Paul Ryan signed letters requesting Recovery Act funds for his district, even as he voted against the Recovery Act and attacked it in public statements. Now he admits he did, but says it should have been “handled differently” in some vague way. He even has the gall to say that “it’s clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy.”
Ultimately, the problem here isn’t that Ryan requested the funds. That’s his job as a Congressman. The problem is that he’ll go on TV and lie to constituents and voters about whether ARRA was necessary and whether it helped. It was, and it did. It turned around an utter collapse in GDP and jobs—and put us in a better position than many European countries that pursued austerity budgets.
As Steve Benen aptly noted in describing the success of the stimulus despite Republican rhetoric to the contrary: “The truth matters, not simply as a political exercise in which partisan players point fingers and thump their chests, but for entirely practical reasons.”
In private, it’s clear Ryan knew the funds would help Wisconsin Energy Conservation and put people to work in his district. So who is it that he and Mitt Romney are trying to fool when they deny the facts about the Recovery Act in public?