The stimulus bill was imperfect. A sizable share of the stimulus ie., its tax provisions, enhanced Medicaid funding, etc., were political elements aimed at garnering sufficient support for the legislation. They were not designed to shore up/increase aggregate demand.There is no question that a stimulus was needed but not what Obama jammed through the Congress as emergency legislation.
Pure stimulus focused on aggregate demand e.g., increased infrastructure investment, etc., would have delivered more bang for the buck. Nonetheless, in its April 2010 World Economic Outlook, the IMF noted that the U.S. fiscal stimulus added a full percentage point to 2009 GDP.
It should be noted that a number of the stimulus bill's opponents wanted no stimulus package whatsoever, even as such inaction would have led to a markedly worse economic contraction/job loss. That the unemployment rate rose much higher than some of the stimulus package's advocates had expected only revealed that they had underestimated the magnitude of the economic contraction. Other opponents, some of whom railed against the rescue of the financial system that, if it had collapsed would have resulted in a deflationary Depression, actually wanted a massive bailout of homeowners. While such a bailout would have softened the impact of the decline in housing prices, it would have done nothing to avert a Depression once the financial system collapsed.
Where policy makers should cooperate going forward is developing a credible fiscal consolidation program and implementing it beginning next year should the economy continue to grow. But, at least at this point, it appears that ideology will likely trump the politically courageous decisions required to launch such a program. Instead soothing fairy tales that the economy will magically grow its way out of the nation's imbalances, sparing policy makers of the less popular need to impose a combination of discretionary spending cuts, mandatory spending reform, and tax increases. That's exactly the kind of denial that has gotten other countries into ever deeper fiscal difficulty.