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Christina Romer, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, acknowledged the problem with joblessness but insisted that the stimulus arrested a steep downturn of the economy in the winter, when it fell at a 6.4 percent rate, and helped produce the most dramatic swing from recession to growth seen since 1980.

Without it, the economy “would have risen little, if at all, this past quarter,” she said. But she also conceded that the bulk of the impact from spending on state and federal programs was seen in the spring and summer quarters, and its effect will wane in the future.

Josh Bivens, analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-backed think tank, said the stimulus bill’s expansion of unemployment benefits, tax cuts for the middle class and one-time payments of $250 to seniors and disabled people all helped to produce the revival of consumer spending seen in the summer.

He noted that wages and other forms of income have been falling since the recession began, and the government transfers were essential to maintaining consumers’ purchasing power.

“Consumer spending is buoyed largely by public spending and relief,” he said. Without it, “it is easy to imagine consumer spending plunging much farther than it has.”

Harm Bandholz, economist with Unicredit Markets, said the increase in federal spending was a minor contributor to growth in the summer. He added that a continuing stream of stimulus spending in coming quarters could prove critical to offsetting a widely expected drop in consumer spending as consumers once again sink under the weight of high unemployment and debt.

Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital, questioned the wisdom of even the housing and auto sales incentives, saying the boon for the economy was unsustainable because it was paid for with more consumer and government debt, which is already at dangerous levels.

“The government’s economic stimulus programs have created some short-term gain in exchange for severe long-term pain,” he said.