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New dose of stimulus

In a rare lapse of partisanship, the Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a $35 billion jobs bill, larded with tax breaks for businesses that hire new workers and subsidies for state infrastructure projects.

The measure is a follow-up to the $787 billion stimulus Congress approved last spring with only a handful of Republican votes. Thirteen GOP senators supported the new bill even though it is likely to be less effective than last year's law, widely derided by Republicans as a deficit-busting failure.

That story line retains traction because Republicans have steadfastly emphasized it, the Obama administration was both hampered by overly optimistic economic predictions and slow to counter the GOP claims and because unemployment, the gauge by which most people judge the economy, has remained stubbornly high.

Yet the best-known economic research firms agree that last year's bill has added from 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and will ultimately generate 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office considers those estimates conservative.

The Wall Street Journal notes that only one-third of the $787 billion was spent in the first year, and much of that was on quick fixes like payments to states and local governments to avert layoffs of teachers and emergency responders.

Still to come is the bulk -- $160 billion vs. the $20 billion spent last year -- of the infrastructure money for roads and bridges, rail lines, water projects, what most people think of as stimulus. And also still to come is by far the greater part of the $288 billion in tax cuts in the bill.

Despite the Republicans criticism, the Obama administration's commitment to deficit spending averted a worse economic catastrophe, perhaps another Great Depression.

The tide of red ink cannot continue indefinitely without threatening the nation's fiscal well-being, but it is justified -- even necessary -- to combat serve economic downturns.


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