WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2010 -- With a sluggish economy and an electorate disgusted with Washington, it's no surprise that the president's $862 billion economic stimulus program has emerged as a central campaign issue. Republicans attack it. Democrats defend it. And both make bogus claims about its impact.
First, the Republicans.
GOP hero Scott Brown set the tone after he captured Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in January.
"In Massachusetts, it hasn't created one new job and throughout the country as well. It may have retained some, but it hasn't created any new jobs," Brown told reporters at his first press conference as a U.S. Senator. "The last stimulus bill didn't create one new job."
More recently, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott in Florida declared, "The stimulus has not created one private sector job." And Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for Senate in Florida, attacks the stimulus in a TV ad saying, "The only thing missing is jobs."
Did the stimulus create no jobs?
In a word: no.
It's actually a ridiculous claim. Just drop by one of the 14,062 highway construction projects now funded by the stimulus. According to the Department of Transportation, these projects have directly funded 61,940 jobs. And that's just one relatively small slice of the stimulus pie.
As the campaign hits the final stretch, some Republicans are claiming the stimulus has actually caused job loss.
For example: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the Chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, said the stimulus program "created" unemployment.
"The stimulus was excessive spending that did not meet the intended targets or consequences and was the wrong thing to do and has created not only unemployment, but the big circumstance with the debt that we're dealing with," Sessions said last week on the ABC News program Top Line.
The stimulus's $862 billion price tag certainly added to the national debt, but create unemployment?
In a recent debate, Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell went so far as to say the stimulus "cost us 2.6 million jobs."
Stimulating Debate: White House, Republicans Differ on Stimulus
Economists differ on how many jobs were created -- the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office puts it somewhere between 1.4 and 3.3 million -- but none say it cost jobs.
Republicans don't have the monopoly on bogus claims about the stimulus.
Chief stimulus cheerleader Vice President Joe Biden – who declared in June the beginning of "recovery summer" – has been prone to irrational exuberance when it comes to claims about what the stimulus has achieved.
Last September, Biden said of the stimulus, "In my wildest dreams, I never thought it would work this well."
Actually, the Obama-Biden economic team put out a report in early 2009 saying the stimulus would keep the unemployment rate at no higher than 8 percent. With unemployment now at nearly 10 percent, that now seems like a wild dream.
The most extravagant claim related to the stimulus came from Harry Reid when he told MSNBC last week, "But for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression."
Whatever the claims, the stimulus is viewed unfavorably by the majority of voters.
A recent ABC News poll showed 90 percent of likely voters say the economy is in bad shape, perhaps an indication why the Obama administration's economic stimulus gets so little applause: By more than two-to-one, 68 percent to 29 percent, Americans are far more apt to say that money was wasted rather than well-spent.
The bottom line: The stimulus did create some jobs, though not enough to bring down the unemployment rate or to convince voters it is working. One thing the stimulus definitely did create, however, was a boatload of bogus claims.
Gregory Simmons and Avery Miller contributed to this report..