Majority thinks stimulus isn't working

Bad news for President Obama: Americans aren't wild about one of his biggest domestic initiatives

Published August 17, 2009 3:55PM (EDT)

Six months ago, Congress and the administration came together to pass the stimulus package, $787 billion that was supposed to give the nation's troubled economy a boost. Now, a majority of Americans don't think it's doing any good.

A new poll out from USA Today and Gallup shows that 57 percent of Americans believe the stimulus has either had no effect on the economy, or has made it worse. True, a plurality of respondents -- 41 percent -- said it's made things better, but that's ultimately little comfort for President Obama and his fellow Democrats given the other numbers.

Similarly, 78 percent of respondents were either "very worried" or "somewhat worried" that money from the stimulus is being wasted. And asked for their view of the stimulus' long-term impact, 60 percent said they believe it will either have no effect on the economy or will make it worse, compared to 38 percent who believe it will make things better.

This gets to what is, to me, one of the more puzzling aspects of the administration's strategic thinking thus far.

Given the economic situation, the stimulus has the potential to make -- or break -- Obama's presidency, and by the time it was passed, he'd already hired damn near every prominent left-of-center economist in the country. So why farm the process of putting the legislation together out to the 535 people least likely to come up with a coherent, efficient stimulus package?

And then why do the same thing again on healthcare reform? That's arguably the second most important item on Obama's domestic agenda, behind the stimulus, and voters are going to judge him on it come 2012 -- they'll be judging the Democratic congress on it in 2010, too.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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