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February 17th, 2010
09:14 PM ET

CNN Fact Check: Is the President keeping his promises on stimulus?

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Chris Mould
CNN

One year ago today, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Investment Act. He called it "the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history" at a time when many feared the United States was on the brink of another depression.

To mark the anniversary, the president is launching something of a media blitz, dispatching Cabinet members across the country to share stimulus success stories and counter critics' accounts of stimulus shortcomings and waste. To help you weigh the stimulus progress, or lack thereof, the CNN Fact Desk thought it would be helpful to look back at what the stimulus was supposed to do in the first place.

Fact Check: What did President Obama promise the $862 billion stimulus plan would achieve when he signed it into law one year ago?

- Obama said the plan would "create or save three and a half million jobs over the next two years ... putting Americans to work doing the work that America needs done in critical areas that have been neglected for too long - work that will bring real and lasting change for generations to come."

One year later, the Congressional Budget Office says between 800,000 and 2.4 million jobs have been funded by stimulus money.

- The president said money would be used to upgrade transportation and information networks, "remaking the American landscape with the largest new investment in our nation's infrastructure since President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the building of an interstate highway system in the 1950s. Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our dams and levees, bringing critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America."

One year later, the Transportation Department says stimulus money has funded more than 12,500 transportation projects and work has begun on bringing broadband Internet to communities with little or no Internet access.

- Under the plan, the president said, "we are making the largest
investment in education in our nation's history ... that will create jobs building 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs for millions of children" and "provide funds to train a new generation of math and science teachers."

One year later, the Education Department says it has received $100 billion in stimulus funds, and has awarded $69 billion to states and other recipients through grants. Plans to start building and upgrading facilities are under way, it says.

- Obama said the bill would "create a $2,500 annual tax credit to put the dream of a college degree within reach for middle class families and make college affordable for 7 million students." The credit actually provides "up to" $2,500 for low-income and middle-income students, and is phased out as incomes increase.

- He said money would be spent on "computerizing America's medical records - to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and the medical errors that every year cost thousands of lives."

A year later, $20 billion in Medicaid incentives is being dedicated to hospitals and doctors' offices to digitize health records. It will be paid out over the next three to four years.

- He said it would encourage energy independence by "laying the groundwork for a new, green energy economy that can create countless

well-paying jobs" and "double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years."

One year later, the Energy Department says more than $1 billion in stimulus grants have financed at least 32 projects nationwide and helped revive the renewable energy industry. And the United States appears to be on track to double renewable energy production as the president said, although it remains a small percentage of the total output.

- The president said tax cuts would account for nearly a third of the money in the bill, with "95 percent of hardworking families" getting bigger paychecks through decreased federal tax withholding. And he said the bill would provide larger unemployment checks to millions of out-of-work Americans.

One year later, most Americans are seeing bigger unemployment checks and increases in paychecks due to reduced withholding.

- Other promises included creation of a "newer, smarter electric grid" and the "weatherizing of over 1 million homes" to help Americans save on their electric bills. The Energy Department's Weatherization Assistance Program got a $500 billion stimulus boost, but has managed to spend only $441 million, raising questions about the program's effectiveness.

- The president promised all this would happen "without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending" and "with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability." We'll let the pundits and politicians settle this one!

Bottom Line: Most of the promises outlined by the president last year are being worked on, according to those keeping official track. But the American

Recovery and Investment Act signed in February 2009 was a two-year commitment, so it's only at the halfway point, and less than half the money has been spent.

And while the stimulus has clearly provided benefits to many Americans, there are accounts of fraud and waste amid the success stories. You can continue to check the progress and track how the money is being spent at cnn.com/stimulus as well as the government's official Web site, http://www.recovery.gov.

- CNN's Rachel Streitfeld, David Golfman, Josh Levs and Steve Hargreaves contributed to this Fact Check.

Got something that needs checking? Email us at factcheck@cnn.com


Filed under: Economy • President Barack Obama • Stimulus
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