Building the case for a brand new jobs-creation bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says most Americans would not mind inflating the already-gaping deficit in exchange for more jobs.
The California Democrat said on a conference call Tuesday that Americans could "absorb" the hit to the federal budget, and she argued that their biggest complaint is not that the deficit is big -- it's that they're not seeing any benefit in return for increasing the U.S. debt load.
Despite the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February, unemployment climbed to 10.2 percent in October. While critics cite the jobless rate as a sign that the stimulus has failed, Pelosi argues that the federal government is just not trying hard enough.
"We have to shed any weakness that anybody may have about not wanting to be confrontational on this subject for fear that we'd be labeled not sensitive to the deficit," Pelosi said, in a recording posted by Think Progress.
"The American people have an anger about the growth of the deficit because they're not getting anything for it. ... If somebody has the idea that the percentage of GDP of what our national debt is will go up a bit, but they will now -- and their neighbors and their children -- will have jobs, I think they could absorb that, and then we ride it out and bring money in," she said.
"But I think if anybody is asking the public, 'Would you rather have a job or the percentage of GDP of our national debt would go up a little bit?' I think that everybody wants a job."
House Democrats are not calling the expected jobs proposal a "stimulus," though it would probably include similar measures like infrastructure spending.
The drumbeat for jobs-creating legislation is running up against heightened wariness about increasing the deficit in the Obama administration. President Obama, who ran up a $1.4 trillion deficit in fiscal 2009, reportedly plans to focus on deficit reduction in his State of the Union address next year.
But Pelosi urged the president to find a "balance" between jobs creation and deficit reduction. She said the two are not mutually exclusive.
"We don't subscribe to the idea that some are for deficit reduction and some are for job creation. We think that is ... a false choice," Pelosi said. "We're never going to decrease the deficit until we create jobs, bring revenue into the Treasury, stimulate the economy so we have growth."
She called the recent deficit growth "stunning," but said the United States risks being too timid.
"If we pull our punch, as they did in the '30s, the mid-'30s, we shouldn't be surprised if history repeats itself," Pelosi said.