The second headline on washingtonpost.com Friday morning highlights "High marks for stimulus package." Oh, who gave it high marks? It explained underneath: "Massive program is coming in on time and under budget -- and with strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse -- according to a White House report."
On page A15 of the paper, the headline is "Positive review of stimulus package." Underneath that in smaller, capitalized type is "White House Report." Online, it's simply "Report gives stimulus package high marks." Lori Montgomery's story reads like a breathy Obama-Biden press release -- and it quotes no conservatives or Republicans.
Montgomery reported Team Obama had support in arguing their so-called stimulus "staunched the worst bleeding in employment and led the economy to rebound late last year. Many prominent economists agree with that assessment." The Congressional Budget Office estimates it "may" be on track to "meet the administration's goal of preserving 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year."
Right after that, in the tenth paragraph, is where conservatives (and the vast majority of the public) are briefly acknowledged:
Congressional Republicans and many conservatives challenge those claims, arging that the stimulus package led to record budget deficits while doing little to improve the economy. With the unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent, two-thirds of the voters agree with that view.
Montgomery acknowledged in paragraph two that in this election season, "the report challenges public perception of the stimulus aid as slow-moving and wasteful -- an image that has fueled voter anger with the dominant party."
But the rest of the story is devoted to the dominant party's "positive review." The narrator seems to be Jared Bernstein, formerly of the liberal, union-funded Economic Policy Institute, who is now Vice President Biden's chief economist. Biden was made responsible for evaluating the "stimulus." The word "liberal" never appears in the story. As usual, it's "conservatives" versus "many prominent economists" and nonpartisan government experts.
Montgomery insisted the "speedy spending" has been largely free of waste or fraud. "Even some former skeptics who predicted the money would lead to rampant abuse now acknowledge that the program could serve as a model for improving efficiency in government." She also insisted "The administration also met nearly a dozen deadlines set by Congress for getting money out the door."
The story championed the positive view of two "former skeptics." Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a center-left budget watchdog, exclaimed "Certainly, the fraud and waste element has been smaller than I think anyone anticipated...You can certainly challenge some projects as questionable economically. But there haven't been the examples of outright fraud where the money is essentially lining someone's pocket."
The other is "Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors, said the unprecedented [?] focus on oversight clearly paid off and should be analyzed for lessons that could be applied throughout the government."
Lori Montgomery's story closed with Biden's man Bernstein saying "We have a ton more work to do", but the report (not to mention the very cooperative Post reporter) serves to verify "the Recovery Act has accomplished much of what is set out to do."