Axelrod denies White House focus on economy flagged

White House senior adviser David Axelrod on Sunday said the economy has consistently been a top focus, denying that the Obama administration diverted its attention to health care, energy, Middle East negotiations and other initiatives.

“We have been doing things all along to accelerate this economy,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, claiming the White House has not waited too long to seek additional measures to spur job creation. “We have done things right along to keep this recovery moving in the right direction.”

President Obama last week unveiled a proposal to expand infrastructure spending, extend and expand R&D tax credits, and allow businesses to fully deduct capital investments.

But Axelrod noted several other initiatives and bills dating back months, such as a $17.5 billion package of hiring incentives that Obama signed in March, and legislation enacted last month that boosted medical and education aid to states.

Axelrod also expressed hope that small business tax break and lending legislation that has been stuck in the Senate could move very soon, citing comments by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) that he intends to back the plan.

“We are hopeful that next week we may be able to break the logjam,” Axelrod said.

Poll after poll shows the struggling economy dominating voters’ concerns in the run-up to the midterm elections.

The White House is struggling to make the case that its policies – including the big 2009 stimulus – have boosted hiring and prevented even deeper economic woes. The Labor Department reported early this month that private businesses added 67,000 jobs in August, more than forecast. Overall, the nation lost 54,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.6 percent.

Axelrod said there has been progress, noting eight months of private sector job growth. He noted the economy was in a “huge” hole that dates back to well before the administration took office. “We want to move this economy forward more quickly. We would like some cooperation to do it,” he said.