Wash. Times' Lambro misrepresented Furman's '08 statement about stimulus

››› ››› ELBERT VENTURA

The Washington Times' Donald Lambro falsely claimed that in a January 2008 paper, President Barack Obama's campaign economic adviser Jason Furman "doubted any infrastructure spending 'would generate significant short-term stimulus.' " In fact, in that paper, while stating that infrastructure projects are "difficult to design in a manner that would generate significant short-term stimulus," Furman also said that infrastructure spending "might be more useful if policies could be designed to prevent cutoffs in ongoing infrastructure spending (such as road repair) that would exacerbate an economic downturn."

In a January 26 column, Donald Lambro, The Washington Times' chief political correspondent, falsely claimed that in a January 2008 paper, President Barack Obama's campaign economic adviser Jason Furman "doubted any infrastructure spending 'would generate significant short-term stimulus.' " In fact, in that paper, while stating that infrastructure projects are "difficult to design in a manner that would generate significant short-term stimulus," Furman also said that infrastructure spending "might be more useful if policies could be designed to prevent cutoffs in ongoing infrastructure spending (such as road repair) that would exacerbate an economic downturn."

According to an "economic analysis" of the stimulus plan on the House Appropriations Committee website, "The recovery bill has been structured to generate spending at a much faster rate over the next two years than typical infrastructure legislation." The analysis stated that "in many cases, state and local governments are given deadlines to commit to projects. If they do not meet those deadlines, the money will be allocated to other states ready to spend it," and that "[t]he bill's guidelines favor projects with faster spend-out rates."

Lambro also cited a "recent analysis" of the stimulus plan by the Congressional Budget Office as evidence for his claim that "[i]t will take a lot longer than almost anyone thinks for the Obama administration to get the $825 billion stimulus money into the economy." But Lambro did not note that the CBO report is only a partial analysis of the stimulus package. According to Huffington Post senior congressional reporter Ryan Grim, CBO's numbers "dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan." In a January 22 letter, Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag stated that the CBO analysis "did not assess the overall package" and also said that "[o]ur analysis indicates that at least 75 percent of the overall package ... will be spent over the next year and a half."

From Furman's January 10, 2008, paper, co-written with Douglas W. Elmendorf:

The following policies are likely to be less effective in spurring economic activity than the policies just discussed, either because the available evidence indicates they do not provide well-timed stimulus or because there is considerable economic and administrative uncertainty about how they might work:

Increase infrastructure investment. Although additional physical and technological infrastructure investments might provide an important boost to long-term growth, they are difficult to design in a manner that would generate significant short-term stimulus. In the past, infrastructure projects that were initiated as the economy started to weaken did not involve substantial amounts of spending until after the economy had recovered. However, this approach might be more useful if policies could be designed to prevent cutoffs in ongoing infrastructure spending (such as road repair) that would exacerbate an economic downturn.

From Lambro's January 26 Washington Times column:

It will take a lot longer than almost anyone thinks for the Obama administration to get the $825 billion stimulus money into the economy. Don't believe me? Read the Congressional Budget Office's recent analysis of the Democrats' plan.

President Obama has said he intends to give the economy "a jolt" by quickly injecting stimulus funds into the nation's economic arteries in the hopes of creating more than 3 million jobs. But according to the nonpartisan CBO, which crunches budget numbers for Congress, only a small fraction of the proposed $274 billion in infrastructure spending to jump-start the economy will be spent by the end of this fiscal year and the rest won't be disbursed until 2010 or later.

[...]

Its findings reaffirm Obama economic adviser Jason Furman's warning last year that infrastructure spending is one of the "less-effective options" for boosting jobs and economic growth. In an economic paper evaluating all the ways to end the recession, Mr. Furman doubted any infrastructure spending "would generate significant short-term stimulus," because all too often the money is not spent "until after the economy has recovered."

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Donald Lambro
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