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How Quickly Will The Stimulus Kick In?

You may recall how, the week before last, Republicans were up in arms over a CBO report showing that under 40 percent of the estimated $350 billion in stimulus spending projects would hit the economy in the first two years. At the time, budget director Pete Orszag assured members of Congress that, once the CBO had scored the overall $825 billion package (as opposed to just the $350 billion in "approriated" spending) the two-year pay-out figure would rise to at least 75 percent. But, alas, this didn't exactly stop the GOP for pressing the claim.

Which just goes to show: Don't mess with a White House budget director who's a former head of the CBO. This afternoon, the CBO released its official scoring of the overall stimulus package. And, wouldn't you know, the agency says slightly north of 78 percent of it will pay out over the first two fiscal years. (Scroll down to the final page of the report and look for the heading "Net Increase in the Deficit.")

Don't get me wrong. There are legitimate ways to critique the stimulus bill. But the speed with which it takes effect doesn't appear to be one of them. 

Update: To clarify, the latest CBO report reflects its scoring of the overall stimulus bill before the Senate (which includes, among other things, a $70 billion reprieve for people who'd get hit with the Alternative Minimum Tax). The overall scoring of the House bill found that only about 64 percent of it pays out over the first two fiscal years. It remains to be seen if the final version both houses vote on clears the 75 percent threshold, but I'd guess it does...

--Noam Scheiber