WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama hailed Wednesday’s one-year-old economic stimulus law as an accomplishment that staved off another Great Depression and kept up to 2 million people on the job.
Still, with millions still out of work and losing patience, Obama acknowledged that to them, “It doesn’t yet feel like much of a recovery.”
Marking the anniversary of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama aimed his message at people skeptical about the expensive relief measure and Republican lawmakers who voted against it and continue to hammer him about it.
To the public, Obama explained, as he has many times before, that the stimulus plan was composed of tax cuts for most Americans along with help for state governments, extended social service benefits and huge investments in energy, education and infrastructure.
“One year later, it is largely thanks to the recovery act that a second depression is no longer a possibility,” Obama said.
To his Republican critics, who say the bill was a costly, debt-financed blunder that has not delivered on the promise of job creation, Obama challenged them to take up the case with people who have stayed employed or have found help solely because he and the Democratic-run Congress acted.
Obama even delighted in recounting a section of his State of the Union address last month in which he talked of the tax cuts from the stimulus plan and watched Republican lawmakers fail to applaud the idea.
“They were all kind of squirming in their seats … It was interesting to watch,” Obama said.
And Obama made sure to commend himself and his own team for taking action.
The United States has lost an astounding 8.4 million jobs since this recession began in December 2007.
Obama said the stimulus plan is on target to create or save 1.5 million more jobs, bringing up the estimated total to 3.5 million.
But he sought to remind people that the goal of law was never to restore every job. The government can build confidence and demand and rescue people in hard times during a severe economic slide, Obama said, but it will always be businesses of the private sector that ultimately generate jobs and a recovery.
Obama made repeated references to how well, in his view, his government has done with the stimulus.
“There has never been a program of this scale, moved at this speed, that has been enacted as effectively and as transparently as the recovery act,” Obama added. Referring to Vice President Joe Biden and the other top aides, Obama said, “This team has done an outstanding job.”
Biden, who has led the stimulus implementation, took his own swipe at critics. “They’re unwilling to step up,” he said. “Well not us.”