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 said some of his claims to create or preserve jobs have been exaggerated.
Mr. Obama said he was “not satisfied” with the results of the stimulus program so far, though he highlighted some of the achievements he said were the result of the massive spending bill, which he signed into law in mid-February.
He said it was “good news” that $135 billion obligated so far has saved or created “at least 150,000 jobs.”
But with about 2 million jobs disappearing since the bill was enacted, White House officials conceded that their estimates of jobs “saved or created” were at best only blunting the pace of overall losses.
“Less bad is not good enough,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
A national poll released Monday showed that the public was losing confidence in Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy. But the White House denied that Mr. Obama’s effort to speed up the stimulus spending was a response to either growing anxiety about the program or its lackluster early performance.
Approval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has dropped from 59 percent in February to 55 percent, the USA Today-Gallup poll showed. More significantly, disapproval on the issue has gone up 12 percentage points to 42 percent.
The president, however, remains more popular than either of his two immediate predecessors at this point in his presidency, with a 67 percent overall approval rating.
Still, critics accused the White House with playing with numbers to make the stimulus appear more effective than it’s been.
“The Obama administration is continuing to fabricate job-creation projections related to the stimulus,” said Tony Fratto, a former George W. 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.’ ”
Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told Congress last week that it is “a very difficult thing for anybody to substantiate” the Obama administration’s projections of jobs “saved or created.”
Jared Bernstein, an adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., called the Obama’s team measurement “an estimate of how many jobs you believe you created.”
The president’s event at the White House on Monday, as he pivoted back to domestic policy after a trip to the Middle East and Europe, was intended to highlight “10 new major projects that will define the next three months,” the White House said.