Money Well Spent? - The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus

At the height of the Great Recession, President Barack Obama signed the largest economic recovery plan in American history. The plan cost more than the Louisiana Purchase, the Manhattan Project, the moon race, and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

Stepping outside the political fray, ProPublica’s Michael Grabell offers a perceptive, balanced, and dramatic story of what happened to the taxpayers’ money, pursuing the big question through behind-the-scenes interviews and on-the-ground reporting in more than a dozen states across the country.

Inside the book, you'll read about not only the effect of the stimulus on jobs, but also the long-term impact of infrastructure projects, investments in green energy, the Solyndra scandal, the Race to the Top education reform plan, high-speed rail, rural broadband, government accountability, and the rise of partisan politics.

Reviews & Comments

"Richly detailed, judicious, thorough and timely, this book is a primer on how to evaluate this policy -- and all public policies -- in a highly partisan, polarized, paralyzed political climate."
- The Huffington Post

"In this detailed, thoughtful, and patiently reported book, Grabell describes how one of the largest government efforts to revive the economy became 'one of the most reviled pieces of legislation in recent memory.' "
- Daniel Gross, Yahoo! Finance

"An important and eminently-readable book."
- Dave Davies, NPR's Fresh Air

"A compelling book-club selection for politically oriented readers."
- The Wall Street Journal

"A deeply reported, well-written account of a difficult topic to capture."
- Kirkus Reviews

"The debate we had about the stimulus probably should have been a lot like the book Mr. Grabell has written: a detailed investigation of what does and doesn't work in stimulus spending and whether the government really can jump-start a promising industry through investments, tax breaks and industrial policy."
- The Economist

"What I found particularly interesting and important and useful in Michael's book is on the implementation. ... Michael Grabell has written a lot more about implementation than Keynes did of Keynesian stimulus."
Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden's chief economic adviser

"This thorough exploration of the stimulus will educate readers about where money went ... and the lasting impact of the Great Recession."
Publishers Weekly

"A well-researched and accessible-to-the-general reader book. ... I recommend 'Money Well Spent?' as a model of investigative journallism."
- David Kinchen on

The New York Times

The polarized rhetoric of the 2012 election cycle presents voters with a false choice of whether the government can create jobs or should just get out of the way. The real debate should be about which policies work and which don’t. I spent three years reporting on the $840 billion stimulus plan that the Obama administration pushed through Congress in 2009 ...

CNN with Soledad O'Brien

This morning, we're talking about the economy. It is issue number one for this upcoming presidential election. And critical to that debate is President Obama's $840 billion stimulus. That's more than it cost, by the way, to fight the Iraq war for 2003 to 2010. Investigative reporter, Michael Grabell, is the author of Money Well Spent? ...

Fox & Friends

So now, three years later, was the stimulus money well spent? Joining us now is the author of Money Well Spent?, Michael Grabell ...

NPR's Fresh Air

The Monaco coach RV factory in Wakarusa, Indiana, is a low-slung beige complex surrounded by a gigantic parking lot and a chain-link fence topped with three strands of outward-slanted barbed wire ...

The Five on Fox News

Dana Perino plugs Money Well Spent? in the show's "One More Thing" segment, discussing the stimulus project, Bobber the Water Safety Dog ... (at 37:00 mark)

Current TV

Interview with Cenk Uygur on "The Young Turks."

New York Post

Vice President Joe Biden was eager to get moving. In office for only a month, the Obama administration had already passed a monumental economic stimulus plan to address the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. Now, at the first implementation meeting in 2009, Biden -- with a smudged Ash Wednesday cross still on his forehead -- declared that the stimulus would "literally dropkick us out of the recession" ...

The Economist

So, here's the thing. The debate we had about the stimulus probably should have been a lot like the book Mr. Grabell has written: a detailed investigation of what does and doesn't work in stimulus spending ...

Yahoo! Daily Ticker

According to Michael Grabell, the true answer is that while "the stimulus did a lot of good," with economists generally agreeing that it created jobs and contributed to economic growth, it failed to "live up to the promise of what the American people expected, which was to bring about a strong, sustained recovery" ...


How the Stimulus Revived the Electric Car: The Obama administration helped build an American electric car and battery industry. The question is: Will it last? ...

The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC

Michael Grabell, who covers transportation for ProPublica and is the author of Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History follows up on his ShovelWatch reporting with a book about the stimulus plan and what it accomplished ...

The Elkhart Truth

Just as it has played a prominent role in the story of the Great Recession, Elkhart has been put in the spotlight again in a new book about the federal stimulus program. The just-published book, “Money Well Spent?,” was written by Michael Grabell, a reporter with ProPublica, and examines what happened once the Obama administration rolled out the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To tell the story, Grabell focused on three communities, Fremont, Calif., Aiken, S.C. and the City with a Heart ...

NBC New York

Three years after President Barack Obama signed the controversial $780 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, projects that were approved for millions of stimulus money in 2009 and 2010 languish in the “not started” category of government data, NBC New York's I-Team has found ...

NY1 - "Inside City Hall"

Inside City Hall’s Errol Louis spoke about the federal Recovery Act with New York Times' Michael Cooper and Michael Grabell, the author of the new book, "Money Well Spent?"

Southern California Public Radio - KPCC (89.3)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009 to stimulate the economy and save the U.S from falling into a depression. But was it money well spent? ProPublica investigative reporter Michael Grabell takes on that question in his new book Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History, an expansive account of how the trillion dollar stimulus program came about ...