Obama: Stimulus bill worked ‘as intended’

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ACCRA, Ghana | With bad-news stories about the stimulus spending bill piling up at home, President Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to try to reset expectations, saying that despite continued job losses and the slow distribution of the money, the program “has worked as intended.”

Mr. Obama is finishing up a weeklong overseas trip during which, he says, he’s made major progress on food aid, handling Iran’s nuclear program and improving relations with Russia, but he said his attention is still on the troubled economy at home. With stories of bum projects and odd spending decisions mounting, Mr. Obama took to the airwaves to say things are going as planned.

“In a little over 100 days, this Recovery Act has worked as intended,” he said. He said that thanks to the $787 billion spending bill he signed in February, “We’ve been able to pull our financial system and our economy back from the brink.”

It’s a change from early June, when Mr. Obama said he was “not satisfied” with the pace of spending and demanded that his government speed up disbursement of cash.

Now, a month later, Mr. Obama is playing offense, saying he always assumed the Recovery Act would take time and that this summer and fall were the key times.

Nowhere does he mention his goal to “save or create” 3.5 million jobs through the spending bill - a figure he repeatedly used when demanding the bill’s passage but which has come under fire as being impossible to measure.

The government did pick up the pace in making money available in late June and early this month, but the pace of actual spending - the money that’s going out the door - remains the same as before, according to data on Recover.gov, the official stimulus Web site.

The Washington Times reported that some states with low unemployment rates are getting much more money per capita than states with poor job markets, which might need the assistance more. And Mr. Obama has had to cancel some projects after lawmakers called them a waste of money.

In the Republican radio response, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said Americans are right to question Mr. Obama’s spending bill.

“Remember the promises? They promised you if you paid for their stimulus, jobs would be created immediately. In fact, they said that unemployment would stay under 8 percent. Yet just months later, they are telling us to brace for unemployment to climb over 10 percent,” he said.

He said the Republicans’ plan is to cut taxes to boost the economy.

But Mr. Obama said Republicans have opposed him from the start and haven’t offered a real plan.

He also took aim at those in his own party who say the first bill has fallen short and are calling for another round of spending, telling them spending will pick up later this year.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner echoed Mr. Obama’s comments. In a taped interview with CNN to air Sunday, Mr. Geithner said it was too soon to decide whether the U.S. economy needed the help of a second round of government stimulus.

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