Obama Stimulus Still Stokes Controversy Two Years Later

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In 2009, President Obama said his $814 billion economic stimulus package was necessary to avert a “catastrophe.” On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act against Republican charges that it was a “failure” and “a national punch-line.”

“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the Recovery Act has so far been responsible for 3.6 million jobs and lowered the unemployment rate by 2 percent.” Carney insisted to reporters at Thursday's White House press briefing. “It’s impossible not to acknowledge where we were and where we are, and the Recovery Act was a major contributor.”

One fact is clear: The unemployment rate is still at 9 percent, even though the administration predicted it would be 7 percent by now.

Carney said the optimistic projections before the bill was passed were based on the best available evidence.

“The reality as time passed was that the hole we were in -- this country was in -- as President Obama was sworn into office was much deeper than even we knew,” Carney said. “The job loss more extreme, the shrinking of the economy much, much greater.”

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Republicans, who have consistently blasted the Recovery Act as wasteful government spending, are now renewing their attacks against a backdrop of the current budget battles.

Taking note of the president’s 2012 budget proposal, House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference Thursday that Obama was pursuing the same policies as two years ago.

“The president's budget shows clearly he's committed to more stimulus spending that he began some two years ago,” Boehner said. “In that time, 1.8 million private sector jobs have been lost, unemployment is at 9 percent… the legacy of the stimulus spending binge is clear—it failed.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed those comments in a statement.

“Two years ago, the president came to Congress and told the country we needed to ‘invest’ in the future through a trillion-dollar stimulus that was supposed to be a model of transparency and efficiency,” McConnell said. “Within a year, this bill which was sold to us as the answer to our nation’s economic woes had become a national punch-line. And two years after that ‘investment’ in our future was signed into law, what do we have: More debt, higher unemployment.”

McConnell also took note of two polls indicating public skepticism about the president’s economic policies.

One Washington Post/ABC News Poll, taken last September, shows 36 percent of those questioned believed the president’s economic programs have had no effect, while 33 percent believed they made the economy worse.

And, McConnell says a CBS poll from last July found 56 percent believed the president’s economic policies had no impact, and 18 percent thought they made things worse.