Led by President Barack Obama and the rest of his administration, Democrats on Wednesday celebrated the first anniversary of the $787 billion stimulus program, still more controversial for its politics than for its economics.
The president argued that he signed the legislation, a move he said was not politically easy for him or for those in Congress. Such a large expenditure is never popular at a time of massive deficits, he said.
“We acted because failure to do so would have led to catastrophe,” Obama said in televised remarks. “We acted because we had a larger responsibility than simply winning the next election.
“One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second Depression is no longer a possibility.”
Obama made the arguments he has made before ? that a third of the money went to tax cuts and a third to bring relief to those laid off, giving them added jobless benefits and help with health insurance.
“Our work is far from over, but we have rescued this economy,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments came during a blitz of Democratic cheering for the year-old Recovery Act. With the failure to enact health care overhaul, the stimulus bill ranks as the Obama administration’s major domestic initiative of past year.
Along with the president, who mentions the stimulus program in almost every town hall-style appearance, Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine have been all over the airwaves touting the program. Dozens of top officials have fanned out across the country to explain and tout the plan in this midterm election year.
Republicans have been equally vociferous in their opposition. The legislation passed the House 246-183, with all Republicans voting against it. In the Senate, three moderate Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill 60-38.
“It’s been a year, and the president and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi are still trumpeting a stimulus program that most Americans intrinsically know has failed to achieve the goals that were set for it,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Republicans argue that despite the funds, jobs continue to be lost. They also argue that the cost of creating the jobs was too high and that the overall price tag will hike debt and place more of a burden on future generations.
Republicans also dismiss the Democratic argument that 2 million jobs were saved or created, saying the accounting is unclear. Democrats counter that Republicans are hypocrites, attacking the spending program but attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the projects.
The back-and-forth over the stimulus bill is a taste of the politics for the rest of the year. Democrats will run on saving the economy and Republicans responding that not enough has been done and what has been done was largely wrong.
Polls show that most people doubt the value of the stimulus plan, despite Democratic protestations of its success.
A recent CBS/New York Times poll found just 6 percent agreeing that the Recovery Act created jobs. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Tuesday argued that number is a symptom of how poor the economy has been.
“When you call somebody who lives in Elkhart, Ind., whose unemployment rate has come down in the last year but is still probably 13 or 14 percent or close to 15 percent, an entire industry ? motor homes ? has decimated,” Gibbs said. “You live in Elkhart, you just lost your job, your wife just lost her job, you’re having trouble figuring out how you’re going to pay for your kids’ college, and somebody says,`How’s the Recovery Act working?’ I mean, you know.”
(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.?Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.