- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Monday pushed to reinvigorate his $787 billion economic stimulus program, promising to “accelerate” efforts to get money out the door while dealing with critics who say some of the president’s claims to create or preserve jobs have been “fabricated.”

“I’m not satisfied,” Mr. Obama said to reporters at the beginning of a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House, in which he highlighted some of the achievements he said have been achieved because of the stimulus, which he signed into law in mid-February.

He said it was “good news” that $135 billion so far in stimulus spending has saved or created “at least 150,000 jobs.” He also said that the U.S. is “still in the middle of a very deep recession which is going to take a considerable amount of time to pull out of.”

But as new poll numbers showed Mr. Obama’s approval rating on the economy slipping, Republicans and conservative groups hammered the president, pointing out that the economy has lost about 2 million jobs since the stimulus passed out of the Democratic-controlled Congress at the White House’s behest.

“Today’s announcement is an acknowledgment that the Democrats’ trillion-dollar stimulus is not working, and the American people know it,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating on the economy has dropped from 59 percent in February to 55 percent, a new Gallup poll showed Monday, and more significantly his disapproval rating on the issue has risen 12 points from 30 percent to 42 percent. The president himself, however, remains more popular than either of the past two presidents at this point in their presidency, with a 67 percent overall rating.

The president gave a mixed review of the economy so far, stating that May job losses announced Friday were not as bad as expected but were “still far too many.”

It was a different emphasis than the one Mr. Obama made at the end of May, when he cited a stock market that has stabilized and other indicators as evidence that the economy has “stepped back from the brink.”

The White House faces mounting questions over whether the massive spending program is still needed to stimulate an economy administration analysts themselves say is already beginning to show signs of recovery, though some analysts question whether the stock market’s rally may be a bear rally that is setting up for another plunge. Critics have also questioned how Mr. Obama and his aides are tallying jobs saved or created.

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“From the very inception of the stimulus package, the argument that it was urgently needed to reinvigorate our economy lacked credibility since 93 percent of discretionary spending would happen in years to come,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and ranking member on the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.

As reported in Monday’s The Washington Times, one Republican senator said he wants to try to “claw some of [the stimulus spending] back” if the economy is on its way back already.

“It makes a whole lot more sense to reduce our debt than spending it as quickly as we can. We should stop spending it,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican.

The national debt is over $11 trillion, and the deficit for the current fiscal year is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be almost $1 trillion.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday unveiled a plan for the second 100 days of the stimulus during the midday Cabinet meeting at the White House.

“Every 100 days … should produce more than the last 100 days,” Mr. Biden said. “By the fall I think we’re going to be much further down the road to recovery.”

Mr. Obama, having just returned from a trip to the Middle East and Europe, is highlighting “ten new major projects that will define the next three months,” the White House said.

The White House said Monday that the projects including new work at 107 national parks, 98 airports and 1,500 highway locations, and hiring or retaining 5,000 police officers will save or create 600,000 jobs. But 125,000 of the jobs are summer positions for youth, according to the White House.

Mr. Obama pledged in February that, all told, the stimulus plan would save between 3 million and 4 million jobs.

But the administration’s numbers are already the subject of heavy skepticism from critics.

“The Obama Administration is continuing to fabricate job-creation projections related to the stimulus,” said Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration official.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics — the only government agency counting jobs — cannot tell you how many Americans are working today. They cannot tell you how many Americans were working a month ago. And they cannot even tell you how many Americans — within 50,000 — were at work when the stimulus was passed by Congress,” Mr. Fratto said. “Without that information there is no credible estimate for jobs ‘created or saved.’”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Friday that he was “skeptical that the spending binge that were on is going to produce much good, and even if it does, anytime soon.

Mr. McConnell’s office also pointed out that in January, Christina Romer, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the same person who produced the metric to predict jobs “saved or created,” said that the unemployment rate would stay around eight percent if Congress passed the stimulus package. But the unemployment rate has risen to 9.4 percent.

But Mr. Obama hit back at his critics Monday.

“There’s some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don’t believe in the necessity and promise of this recovery act,” he said. “Tell that to the Americans who received that unexpected call saying to come back to work.”

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