As he campaigns for re-election, U.S. President Barack Obama wants voters to believe his 2009 stimulus package played a key role in the economic recovery.
But while the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) did indeed help many people by spreading more than $787 billion around the country, it fell short of its goal of stimulating an economic recovery.
That's because about two-thirds of the stimulus package either went to debt reduction or into people's savings accounts. Neither boosts the economy.
That's the perspective - with some exaggeration for effect - you'll hear from Republicans during the presidential campaign.
"At the signing of the 'stimulus' three years ago, President Obama said he wanted to be held accountable for the results of his spending binge," House Speaker John Boehner said last week. "Today, there's no denying the fact that his 'stimulus' policies not only failed, they made things worse."
President Obama will need to shift the focus to ARRA's benefits. It did put a lot of money into the hands of millions of people through the tax rebates and extra entitlement spending on Medicare and unemployment benefits. And he can fall back on his mantra that the stimulus package kept the crisis from getting worse.
"Most economists - almost every economist - will tell you that had we not put [ARRA] in place we could've tipped into a great depression," President Obama recently told ABC News.
And yet that's not quite the same thing as jumpstarting the economy.
"Ultimately the stimulus did not live up to the promise of what the American public expected it to do, and that's bring about a strong, sustainable recovery," Michael Grabell, author of a new book on ARRA, "Money Well Spent?" told The Daily Ticker.
A Massive Stimulus Package
One would think the sheer size of the stimulus package would have done more than just keep things from getting worse.
"In raw dollars, inflation adjusted, the stimulus comes out as the biggest - bigger than the moon race, the [Works Progress Administration], the Louisiana Purchase, the Manhattan Project," Grabell told The Fiscal Times.