Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the administration underestimated the severity of the slumping economy when it assumed control in January, but he added that it’s too early to consider a second massive economic-stimulus measure to help jump-start the economy.
“We misread how bad the economy was,” Mr. Biden said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Immediately upon taking office, President Obama pushed the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass a major spending initiative designed to create millions of jobs. In February, with little Republican support, Congress sent the president a $787 billion economic stimulus package that he quickly signed.
Mr. Biden said it’s unfair to consider the program a bust because “no one anticipated, no one expected that recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having distributed the bulk of the money.”
The government has said it has spent more than $10 billion in stimulus money but expects to spend the bulk of it within the program’s first two years.
Mr. Biden said the package will take some time to take effect fully because contracts for many of its projects, such as highway construction and repair, only recently have been completed. He promised that the spending program will create more jobs within the next 100 days.
Although some economists and business leaders have called for a second spending bill to help guide the economy through a downturn that has left millions without jobs, the vice president said such talk is “premature.”
“This was set up to spend out over 18 months,” he said, “and so this is just starting. The pace of the ball is now going to increase.”
The former senator from Delaware also pushed back at Republican criticism that much of the program money has been wasted on frivolous spending projects with little economic benefit.
There were predictions that “this was going to be wasteful and all these terrible projects were going to be out there, and we’re wasting money. Well, that dog hasn’t barked yet,” he said.
But House Minority Leader John A. Boehner flatly said Sunday that the recovery plan was a failure. He said that, to his knowledge, none of the program’s money earmarked for infrastructure improvements in his home state of Ohio has been spent.
Mr. Boehner also said the administration’s promise that the stimulus package would help cap the national unemployment rate at 8 percent has not come true. Unemployment currently is more than 9 percent.
“This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs and jobs,” the Republican lawmaker said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, on Sunday said he also was disappointed with the results of the stimulus program.
“I don’t think anybody can say that we’re honestly satisfied with results so far of the stimulus,” Mr. Hoyer said on “Fox News Sunday.”
But Mr. Hoyer said that although he had hoped that the money would have been doled out more quickly, he agreed with the vice president that it was too early to consider a second stimulus package. He said he is confident the first stimulus will reach its goal of adding millions of U.S. jobs by the end of the year.
“The stimulus package was absolutely essential,” he said, blaming the need for its existence on the “tanking economy” that Mr. Obama inherited from the Bush administration.
Republicans “haven’t had such a hot track record” on the economy, the majority leader added.