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As Obama Prepares to Meet Brown, Stimulus Scuffle Surfaces

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Tuesday: Sen.-elect Scott Brown sits with Boston radio personality Greg Hill, second from right, during a so-called "beer summit" at a bar in Boston's South End neighborhood to benefit the charity Homes for Our Troops. (AP Photo)

President Obama's preparing to meet new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown face-to-face. The White House says it's only a matter of coordinating schedules.

But even before meeting Obama, Brown and the White House found themselves in a fight over the job-creating results of the stimulus faster than you can say "Tea Party" or "Recovery Act."

"The last stimulus bill didn't create one new job," Brown said at his first official Senate press conference.

Asked again if he really meant President Obama's $787 billion stimulus "didn't create one new job," Brown plowed ahead.

"That's correct. In Massachusetts, it hasn't created one new job and throughout the country, as well, It may have retained some, but it hasn't created any new jobs."

To put it mildly, the White House begs to differ.

"The Recovery Act has saved or created 53,000 total jobs in Massachusetts," said Jay Carney, spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, citing statistics from the White House Council on Economic Advisers (CEA). " Moreover, Massachusetts state and local governments, businesses and community organizations have already reported directly funding over 9,000 jobs in the last year."

Carney said the 9,000 jobs represent only "a portion of the total $8.4 billion" in stimulus funds sent to Massachusetts.

Biden overseas stimulus funds and is the law's most ardent and voluble defender. It's perhaps  an unintended tribute to the fractious ways of the Capitol  -- and the bruising economic debates the recession has inspired -- that Brown and Biden found themselves sparring moments after Biden presided at Brown's swearing in.

Carney suggested Brown take note of "serious economists of all political points of view" whom he said "estimate" stimulus dollars have "created or saved between 1.5  and 2.4 million jobs across America."

It's a sensitive subject for a White House looking apprehensively toward Friday's jobless report. Obama's budget project annual average unemployment above 7 percent through 2013. The jobless rate averaged 5.8 percent in 2008 (Page 13, Analytical Perspectives Fiscal Year 2011).

"It is beyond dispute," Carney said, "that if it were not for the (stimulus), as many as 2.4 million more Americans would be unemployed today."

Brown's office, probably still trying to organize itself, had no immediate response.

On Jan. 13 the CEA reported that $413 billion in stimulus funds had been spent on tax cuts, subsidies or direct project payments by the end of 2009. The report also said the stimulus "raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by 1.5 to 2 million."

On Dec. 1, Doug Elmendorf, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, wrote that between 600,000 and 1.6 million more people were employed than would have been without the stimulus. CBO also estimated stimulus spending through the 3rd Quarter of 2009 had boosted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1.2% to 3.2% .

On Jan. 14, the conservative Heritage Foundation argued the stimulus failed to meet initial White House projections on job creation, leaving a 6.8 million gap between promises and current reality.