Fact Check: Joe Biden Mismanaged the 2009 Stimulus

Solyndra (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)
Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

CLAIM: Joe Biden led America’s economic recovery in 2009, when he oversaw the Obama administration’s stimulus.

VERDICT: FALSE. Biden’s management of the stimulus was a disaster, with a buggy website and failures like Solyndra.

Democrats keep citing Biden’s role in the 2009 stimulus as evidence that he would be best to manage the recovery of the American recovery from the coronavirus. Billionaire mega-donor and failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg made that argument on the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Thursday.

But the facts say otherwise.

President Barack Obama campaigned on providing a $50 billion stimulus for the U.S. economy. By the time he took office, in the wake of the global financial crisis, that figure ballooned and eventually hit $862 billion in federal spending.

Obama gave Biden the job of overseeing the stimulus. But things went wrong from the start.

The official website monitoring the stimulus, Recovery.gov, was plagued by bugs, even listing stimulus grants as having been sent to congressional districts that simply did not exist.

Moreover, much of the spending went to state and local governments to protect public sector union jobs, not to generate economic growth in the private sector. Other grants went to pet projects that had very little broader economic impact.

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report on the waste in the stimulus, as Politico noted:

There’s $4.7 million for Lockheed Martin to study supersonic corporate jet travel. More than $210,000 for the National Institutes of Health to study the sex lives of college students. And roughly $233,000 for California college students to conduct exit polls in Africa about voting patterns.

McCain cited $500,000 for Arizona State University to “study the genetic makeup of ants to determine distinctive roles within the ant colony” and another $450,000 to “study division of labor in ant colonies and develop a model for humans to determine the optimal strategy for distributing a specialist in a variable work environment.”

There were other outrageous projects, like money to the Napa Wine Train, and a golf course in San Francisco.

Notably, both McCain and Coburn blamed Biden: “Asked who is to be blamed for such projects in the stimulus bill, the two senators pointed to Vice President Joe Biden, who once likened himself to a “sheriff” overseeing stimulus spending,” Politico reported.

But by far the most memorable symbol of Biden’s mismanagement was Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer to which Biden gave over half a billion dollars in loan guarantees. He even personally visited the plant in California, as did Obama.

“By investing in the infrastructure and technology of the future, we are not only creating jobs today, but laying the foundation for long-term growth in the 21st century,” Biden promised at a groundbreaking for the company, in terms similar to the promises he makes today about “green” energy.

And then, just months later, Solyndra went bust.

Biden kept predicting that things would eventually work. In 2010, he and Obama promised a “Recovery Summer.”

That summer never came. Unemployment remained stubbornly high, and Republicans swept the midterm elections in the House of Representatives.

Ultimately, the stimulus failed — by its own standards. Obama’s economic team said that the stimulus would prevent unemployment from rising above eight percent. It went much higher than that, and for far longer than predicted.

The economy eventually recovered — slowly — in spite of Biden and the stimulus, not because of them.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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