President Obama triumphantly declared on July 1: “The Recovery Act was designed to make sure local school districts didn’t lay off teachers and firefighters and police officers. And its done its job.”
Whether the stimulus has actually “done its job” is up for debate. But the release of a Government Accountability Office report today calls into question Obama’s vision for how stimulus funds should be spent.
Even the liberal Center for American Progress plays up the fact that “states aren’t using funds as intended.” Citing the GAO report, today’s Progress Report says:
Some states are “using education funds to prevent layoffs rather than fund innovative new programs” while others are “not sending transportation funding to the most economically distressed areas.” For instance, the report says that 21 counties in Illinois that were identified as economically distressed “would not have been so classified” if the state had followed the economic recovery act’s criteria. Moreover, local school officials “told the GAO they did not plan to use stimulus funding for educational improvements because they have to spend the money quickly [on] more pressing needs” such as saving teachers’ jobs or preserving current school programs.
Does the administration have a consistent message for how the stimulus funds are supposed to be spent? Based on the GAO report and Obama’s own comments about preventing layoffs, it’s unclear.
One thing is for certain: It’s rare that the Obama-boosters at CAP contradict the President. But even for his die-hard supporters, it’s apparently becoming more difficult to defend Obama’s failing economic policies.