The 2008 stimulus bill wasn't just about jobs and infrastructure investment. According to Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, the legislation also included a serious boost to the social safety net and anti-poverty programs—including an anti-homelessness program that even MSNBC's Chris Hayes hadn't heard of.
The Recovery Act included "a homelessness prevention program that had, I think, $20 million in 2008," Grunwald told Hayes on Sunday's Up with Chris Hayes. "They gave it $1.5 billion. It's an entirely new way of addressing the problem, and it took 1.2 million people that would have been on the streets and helped them out. If it hadn't been for that, homelessness would have doubled after the great recession."
But it didn't stop there. "Just the safety net direct spending on things like unemployment benefits, food stamps, the expanded earned income tax credit for the working poor—that directly lifted seven million people out of poverty and essentially made 32 million people less poor," said Grunwald. "You also had the first real reforms of the unemployment insurance system since it was set up in the New Deal, when it was really set up for a male work force. And now there was $7 billion in incentives for states to expand it to part-time workers, to spouses who had to leave their job because their spouse relocates, essentially stuff that's for a modern economy. And 31 states have adopted that."
Hayes seemed astounded that this part of the stimulus had not gotten greater attention. "Why don't we know that?" he said.
The Majority Report host Sam Seder, an Up regular, said that President Obama had "turned towards austerity," and this made it difficult for him to sell the benefits of stimulus. "It didn't help, I think, that President Obama turned towards austerity so quickly after this," he said, "because how do you tout the success of those programs if you repudiate the idea that the government should be spending money?"