Obama adjusts stimulus expectations

The White House continued to adjust expectations for the $787 billion economic stimulus package Sunday in a column written by President Obama for The Washington Post.

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Obama writes that the stimulus from the start was conceived as a two-year program that would steadily save and create jobs and would ramp up in the summer and fall. It was not expected to restore the economy to full health on its own but to provide the “boost necessary” to stop the free fall, Obama wrote.

“So far, it has done that,” Obama wrote. “We must let it work the way it's supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity.”

The op-ed underscores the importance to the White House of not letting the stimulus be painted as a failure by Republicans, who have hammered away at the package as a failure. The column repeats many of the themes from Obama’s address to the nation on Saturday.

The GOP’s response to Obama, delivered by House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), criticized the administration’s handling of the economy, and charged that Obama’s policies are not working.

The nation lost more than 450,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate hit its highest level in 26 years at 9.5 percent. That has provided ammunition to the GOP, which has ridiculed the White House for insisting the stimulus has saved or created jobs amid the job losses reported every month.

The White House argument is that the losses would have been even greater without the stimulus.

The other message in Sunday’s op-ed is that major actions by Congress should not be put off because of the worst recession in decades.

Some lawmakers have questioned whether the country can afford expensive healthcare reform legislation and a new cap and trade system for greenhouse gasses when the economy is in such rocky shape, and when the nation is already running a 1.6 trillion deficit.

Obama wrote that the country must “seize the moment” to confront weaknesses plaguing the economy for decades.

“There are some who say we must wait to meet our greatest challenges. They favor an incremental approach or believe that doing nothing is somehow an answer,” he wrote. “But that is exactly the thinking that led us to this predicament. Ignoring big challenges and deferring tough decisions is what Washington has done for decades, and it's exactly what I sought to change by running for president.”

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