When the $787 billion federal stimulus was signed into law exactly five years ago this Monday, the U.S. economy was losing almost 800,000 jobs per month. Now? More than 4.2 million jobs have been added since March 2009.
Also at this time five years ago, the unemployment rate was 8.3% and would climb to a high of 10.0% just months later. Now it stands at 6.6%.
But on this fifth anniversary of the stimulus – passed mostly along party lines in response to financial crisis and Great Recession – Democrats and the White House have responded so far with … silence. As of 11:00 am ET, First Read hadn’t obtained a single statement from the White House or a Democratic member of Congress marking the anniversary. (Time magazine reports the White House will issue a report later this week highlighting how the stimulus helped the economy recover.)
By comparison, Republicans have been out in full force issuing statements criticizing the stimulus. Here’s House Speaker John Boehner: “Five years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, millions of families are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’”
Here’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a Reuters op-ed: “Five years later, the stimulus is no success to celebrate. It is a tragedy to lament.”
And here’ Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a video message: “Five years later, underemployment is still too high, the number of people that have dropped out of the workforce is astounding.”
To be sure, history isn’t written by partisan press releases, op-eds or YouTube videos.
Yet political observers have often wondered how a skilled communicator and campaigner like President Barack Obama could lose the message war when it comes to things like the stimulus or the health-care law.
Here’s a possible answer: You’re going to lose that message war when your side doesn’t even try to respond -- or respond as forcefully as the opposition does.