Fact check: Trump errs in describing Obama stimulus program

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This June 2009 photo shows a sign in Waukegan commonly used at the time to remind motorists about infrastructure spending that was part of a package passed by the Obama administration. President Donald Trump disparaged his predecessor’s economic stimulus spending Tuesday even though he praised it at the time; Trump said he was unaware of any projects but in fact there were some in New York, where he lived. | Associated Press file photo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump disparaged his predecessor’s economic stimulus spending as a windfall for social programs and said he’s unaware of anything built from the money steered to infrastructure.

That’s a mischaracterization of former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which had tax cuts as its largest component and plowed more than $100 billion into highway, transit and other “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, to use the buzz phrase of that time.

Trump needn’t have ventured far from Trump Tower to see stimulus money at work. The Brooklyn Bridge and a new landmark Manhattan train station were among New York City’s recipients of millions of stimulus dollars for construction and repairs. And Trump liked the package at the time. When it passed in the depths of the severe recession, he praised Obama as a “strong guy” who did a “terrific job,” adding, “this is what we need.”

That appraisal has changed as Trump prepares to pitch Congress on his own infrastructure initiative.

Trump, in remarks to CEOs Tuesday: “There was a very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration, a trillion dollars. Nobody ever saw anything being built. I mean, to this day, I haven’t heard of anything that’s been built. They used most of that money — it went and they used it on social programs and we want this to be on infrastructure.”


The $787 billion package was not an infrastructure bill, but a catch-all response to the recession with infrastructure as a major part.

More than a third of it went to tax cuts. Medicaid spending and other help for health care made up the next largest component. Then came infrastructure, followed closely by education. The package mixed economic and social spending, helping states train displaced workers, for example, extending jobless benefits and assisting with low-income housing.

In New York City alone, $30 million went toward repairs and repainting of the Brooklyn Bridge; the Staten Island ferry also got a boost. More than $80 million was earmarked for Moynihan Station, an annex to Penn Station that is meant to return the rail hub to the grandeur of the original Penn Station. Road, bridge and transit projects across the country got a lift.

The economy is far stronger than it was at the time. How much the stimulus package contributed to the recovery remains a matter of debate. But it was far more than a social-spending spree, as Trump recognized when it passed.

As BuzzFeed noted in 2015, Trump had high praise for the president and the package when it passed in February 2009, telling Fox News it was a good mix of tax cuts and spending projects. “I thought he did a terrific job,” Trump said then. “This is a strong guy (who) knows what he wants, and this is what we need.”

Find all AP Fact Checks here.

Associated Press writer Jim Drinkard contributed to this report.

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