Joltin’ Joe Biden defends economic stimulus program
If you thought the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus program was meant to provide one big jolt to the economy, you’ve got it all wrong, Vice President Joe Biden says.
“The act was intended to provide steady support for our economy over an extended period — not a jolt that would last only a few months,” he wrote in an op-ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times.
More than a third of it is tax cuts for 95 percent of working Americans, he says. Another chunk of it goes for extended unemployment insurance and healthcare for those hardest hit by the recession.
The final third of the funds goes for infrastructure projects, including what the vice president calls the “largest investment in roads since the creation of the Interstate highway system.”
So no big economic jolt — more of a big long-run infusion.
But hang on, says Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. That’s not how the Obama administration sold the package to the public.
President-elect Obama said in November there was consensus among conservative and liberal economists that “we need a big stimulus package that will jolt the economy back into shape.”
At the end of March, Biden told a gathering in Chile the recently passed Recovery Act “provides a necessary jolt to our economy to implement what we refer as ‘shovel-ready projects.”
And as late as June, he was telling business leaders in New York the stimulus package was “an initial big jolt to give the economy a real head start.”
Stewart suggests the vice president’s op-ed is aimed at resetting “the purpose of the trillion-dollar stimulus bill, I guess to help explain why unemployment continues to go up.”
But Biden isn’t the first to say the stimulus was a longer-term program. The White House back in May referred to the Recovery Act as a two-year program.
And Obama said in his weekly radio address a couple of weeks ago it “was not designed to work in four months — it was designed to work over two years.”
So what do you think? Is the administration changing its tune on how fast the stimulus was expected to work?
Photo credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili (Biden speaking to the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi July 23)