Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell—who faces a primary opponent and a credible Democratic challenger—wants you to know that he hates the stimulus as much as any Tea Party Republican. “Five years later, the stimulus is no success to celebrate,” said the embattled Republican to the Associated Press, “It is a tragedy to lament.”
If by “tragedy” McConnell means “a lifesaver for the American economy,” then he’s absolutely right. When Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, five years ago this month, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. By that spring, job losses had slowed to a halt, and by that summer, the economy was beginning to grow again.
Over the next three years, as Michael Grunwald explains for TIME, the stimulus would produce a 2 to 3 percent increase in GDP each quarter, prevent 5.3 million people from slipping below the poverty line, improve tens of thousands of miles of infrastructure, and provide tax cuts to 160 million Americans.
These benefits flowed to every state in the union, including Kentucky, where nearly $6 million in stimulus funds were sent to repair an Army depot in Madison County. Mitch McConnell isn’t just aware of this—he touted the benefits of said spending to his constituents: “This is going to be a source of significant employment. At the peak, we could have up to 600 people working on this, and we believe the substantial majority of those workers will be Kentuckians,” he bragged to local reporters.
McConnell may hate the stimulus—he supported a filibuster and voted against the final package—but he’s happy to take credit for the benefits. Indeed, he’s playing the same game with the Affordable Care Act. In Washington, the Senate Minority Leader is a vocal critic of Obamacare, and continues to call for total repeal of the law. In Kentucky, by contrast, he’s bona fide crusader for health care access. To wit, here’s an ad from his campaign:
In the unlikely event McConnell loses his reelection bid, I already know the title for his political epitaph: Shameless.