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Stimulus' big boost to the economy? It already happened.

White House economist Christina Romer said Thursday that the stimulus package's impact on the economy will weaken from here on.

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Christina Romer, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, testifies before a Joint Economic Committee hearing on the economy on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.

Larry Downing/Reuters

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Americans hoping for a big economic boost from President Obama's economic stimulus programs got a douse of cold water Thursday: The White House's top forecaster said the largest impact of the stimulus on economic growth is probably in the rear view mirror.

That's the case even though unemployment continues to rise and many of the stimulus dollars haven't been spent.

"Most analysts predict that the fiscal stimulus will have its greatest impact on growth in the second and third quarters of 2009," Christina Romer, who chairs the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said in testimony prepared for Congress. "By mid-2010, fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to growth."

This view is shared by many economists, as Ms. Romer noted. But her assessment comes at a difficult time for both policymakers and for Americans in general.

Despite the massive $787 billion price tag, polls show that many Americans are skeptical about whether the stimulus is accomplishing much. Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the nation's jobless rate has climbed higher than the White House and others had predicted.

Mr. Obama's approval ratings have sagged in recent weeks. Meanwhile, policymakers who back the stimulus have sent mixed signals. Some say not to judge the programs too soon, since most of the stimulus money hasn't been spent yet. But now Americans have been reminded that, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), the impact of stimulus next year will be modest.

Political implications

All this has big implications politically and for the economy.

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