White House: first stimulus working, but jobs package is needed
By Alec MacGillis
As the House was preparing to pass a $150 billion bill for additional job creation, reporters on Wednesday evening pressed White House officials on why the country needs another fiscal boost even as the Obama administration argues that the first stimulus, with $787 billion, is doing the trick.
White House economist Jared Bernstein, stimulus overseer Ed DeSeve and press secretary Robert Gibbs assembled reporters to tout the impact of the $787 billion stimulus, saying it had helped turn the economy around even though much of its force will only start to be felt in the coming months.
But if the stimulus was working as planned, reporters asked, why were congressional Democrats and the White House talking about a new "jobs" package? After his recent "jobs summit," Obama announced that he would push for tens of billions more to jolt the economy.
The White House trio went back and forth, pointing to graphs showing just how big the job losses have been this year, and noting that the $787 billion stimulus, even if working as planned, could not fill the $2 trillion hole in the economy created by the recession. But was that not an acknowledgment that the original stimulus should have been larger -- an admission that the administration made at the time the stimulus passed, but has shied from since?
After all, the worst of the year's job losses were in January and February, exactly when the administration was crafting the stimulus -- it was not as if the really bad job news only arrived after the bill passed. Many liberal critics of the administration have argued that it should have aimed higher at the outset, knowing that conservative Democrats and the few moderate Republicans who voted for the bill would bargain the opening bid down a bit as a price for their support.
If the opening bid had been around $1 trillion -- as it has since emerged that White House economist Christina Romer was arguing was the necessary amount -- then the White House might have ended up with a bigger final sum.
The officials did not disagree that the package should have been bigger. But they argued that they did the best they could. "We got what we could get," said Gibbs. "$787 billion was the political load that could be carried. That's the truth."
December 16, 2009; 11:47 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Economy
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