That’s nice on-the-ground reporting. Unfortunately, the piece falls down when it turns to a Washington talking head:

Other GOP leaders criticized what they called the Obama Administration’s “big-spending policies,” saying they are pushing the national debt on to the next generation. Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch pointed Monday to the $862 billion federal stimulus package passed last year as part of the problem.

Tronovitch said “Kentucky’s economy is far worse off” since the stimulus package was passed.

Too bad the AP didn’t ask a follow-up question, like, “How is Kentucky’s economy worse off?”

The New York Times offers what could be seen as the counterfactual story, and what could have happened—and, perhaps, still could— without economic stimulus.

The subject is Ireland, where an economic crisis two years ago led to cuts in public spending and increased taxes. But those austerity measures haven’t turned out that well:

Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed — those out of work for a year or more — have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent.

Now, the Irish are being warned of more pain to come.

It’s not pretty—as an accompanying slideshow makes clear.

Of course, the U.S. isn’t Ireland. But it’s important story to consider, as Congress acts, or fails to act.

Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at holly.yeager@gmail.com.