By Stephen Collinson (AFP) – Feb 17, 2010
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama admitted Wednesday that millions of Americans had yet to feel the economic recovery, but insisted he had staved off a depression, on the anniversary of his huge stimulus bill.
Obama also lashed out at Republicans he accused of misrepresenting the aims and achievements of the 787-billion-dollar mix of tax cuts and government spending, which he said had saved or created two million jobs.
"One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility," Obama said, at an event marking the anniversary of the day he signed the bill last year in Denver, Colorado.
"We acted because failure to do so would have led to catastrophe."
With unemployment at 9.7 percent and predicted to only come down slowly as economic growth gathers pace, Obama admitted that for many Americans, the misery was not yet over.
"Millions of Americans are still without jobs. Millions more are struggling to make ends meet. It doesn't yet feel like much of a recovery. I understand that."
Vice President Joseph Biden charged with ensuring wasted spending does not tar the stimulus plan, delivered a progress report on the plan's first year.
The bill added two to three percentage points to real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2009; between three and four percentage points in the third quarter, and between 1.5 and 3.0 points in the fourth quarter, the report said.
"The first quarter last year, this economy shrunk over six percent. In the last quarter of this year, it grew over six percent. Something's happening. Something positive is happening," Biden said.
In Washington's poisoned climate, the debate has become less about economic arguments, than an attempt by each political party to define the bill for voters, hence the massive public relations blitz on its first anniversary.
The White House is increasingly arguing that the stimulus bill was a success simply because it staved off a repeat of a second Great Depression, and that the economy, now growing again, has come a long way this year.
It also uses government data to show that the economy was in far worse shape when Obama took over than previously thought, and argues that the bulk of the massive job losses were the result of Republican economic policies.
Obama condemned Republicans who were used the occasion to brand the mammoth plan a huge waste of money that has done little to create jobs.
"There are those, let's face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts."
But Republican leaders gleefully condemned the stimulus plan, as polls showed that many Americans did not believe it had created jobs.
"Americans have lost millions of jobs, the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent, the deficit continues to soar and we?re inundated with stories of waste, fraud and abuse," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
"This was not the plan Americans asked for or the results they were promised."
John Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives meanwhile released his own report, debunking White House claims for the plan.
"Americans are asking 'where are the jobs' but all they are getting from Democrats who control Washington is more spending and more debt piled on the backs of our kids and grandkids," Boehner said.
Roughly one-third of the stimulus funds was dedicated to tax cuts, totaling 286 billion dollars, in an effort to boost consumer spending, a key engine of the world's largest economy.
A further 120 billion dollars was allocated to "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, in such sectors as transportation, road-building, improving the power grid and renewable energy installations.
More spending on infrastructure and tax cuts will be rolled out later this year under the plan.
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