Picture a large tanker headed to the shoals. It’s about to hit ground with deadly force, but just before the disastrous end, just barely in the nick of time, it starts to turn. It’s slow — it’s a big doggone boat after all — but it turns and begins to slowly head back to the ocean.
It’s easy to forget but the U.S. economy was headed to the shoals in late 2008. People talked about pulling their funds from their bank accounts. It was money-under-the mattress and cash-buried-in-the-yard-in-a-tin-can times and the specter of runs on the banks felt real. My book club read The Grapes of Wrath and it no longer seemed like a long-ago story.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama a year ago today, was the muscle that began to turn that tanker.
It’s slow and frustrating. But there’s plenty of evidence that the economy has tortuously turned and the ARRA gets credit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the economy would have shed an additional 2.4 million jobs if not for ARRA.
For those of us in hard-hit Michigan, ARRA has been a lifeline. The Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates these direct benefits to individuals in Michigan:
- A boost in the Food Assistance Program, adding $317 million to the state’s economy;
- A $25 per week increase in unemployment benefits, injecting $514 million;
- Additional weeks of unemployment benefits through the Extended Unemployment, a $1.7 billion addition;
- A one-time $250 payment for Social Security and SSI recipients (and some others) for $471 million in benefits; and
- The Making Work Pay tax credit, a $1.4 billion increase to families in Michigan.
In addition to dollars flowing to individuals, the Michigan Department of Transportation reported that more than 750 road projects are completed or under way with ARRA money. The federal Recovery Act website reports that $6.5 billion has been paid out in various grants and contracts in Michigan so far. In all, ARRA is expected to send more than $15 billion to Michigan.
It’s frightening to imagine where Michigan would be today without it.