Finance

More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden’s stimulus plan

More than 200 Obama administration officials signed a letter released Friday urging Congress to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan while criticizing those who say the massive stimulus bill is too big.

“Every dollar we spend to strengthen our nation during this time of crisis is a downpayment that will pay for itself and help our country thrive in the future. We must learn the lessons from the last economic crisis and pass a large stimulus package to get us back on track,” wrote the officials, who ranged from former Cabinet secretaries to press aides.

“In the words of President Biden when he announced the plan, ‘failure to do so will cost us dearly.’”

Signatories included former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Education Secretaries John King and Arne Duncan and a slew of top advisers to former President Obama.

The letter comes as Biden, his top economic aides, congressional Democrats and liberal economists rebut concerns that the president’s proposed stimulus bill is unnecessarily expensive and could spur rampant inflation.

Supporters of the president’s approach argue that the Obama administration’s inability to approve sufficient stimulus in the wake of the 2008 recession slowed the pace of the subsequent recovery.

“While the [2009 stimulus bill] helped staunch the bleeding, the resistance we faced from deficit fear mongers seeking to water it down ate up valuable time and diluted the amount of aid that reached struggling families and small businesses,” wrote the Obama administration officials.

“Unfortunately, [Biden’s] efforts to restore the economy by putting money in people’s pockets and saving jobs are already being met with opposition from those claiming we can’t afford it.”

The letter primarily blames congressional Republicans for pressuring Obama into cutting his stimulus plan and attempting to do the same to Biden. But the letter also comes amid simmering Democratic anger over an opinion piece written Thursday by former Obama National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, who argued that Biden’s plan far exceeded the stimulus needed to repair damage from the coronavirus recession.

Summers, who served as Treasury secretary under former President Clinton, wrote that while he agreed with Democrats who believe the Obama stimulus bill was insufficient, “stimulus measures of the magnitude contemplated are steps into the unknown.”

Summers, however, is widely blamed by liberal lawmakers and economists for pushing Obama toward a smaller stimulus package against the advice of other White House officials. His Thursday column, published in The Washington Post, spawned a new wave of backlash from Democratic lawmakers and White House economic officials.

“With respect to Larry and his piece, it’s just flat out wrong that our team is, quote, ‘dismissive of inflationary risks,’” said Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, during the White House press briefing Friday.

“Janet Yellen is our Treasury secretary, OK? She knows a little something about inflationary risks,” he said. 

Yellen, whom Obama chose over Summers to serve as Fed chair, has argued that insufficient stimulus poses a greater threat to the economy than overshooting the need for further aid.

Her Republican successor, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, has also warned against passing inadequate stimulus over concerns about inflation.

“I’m much more worried about falling short of a complete recovery and losing peoples’ careers and lives,” Powell said last week.

Tags Arne Duncan coronavirus recession Janet Yellen Janet Yellen Jared Bernstein Jared Bernstein Jerome Powell Julian Castro Kathleen Sebelius Larry Summers Tom Perez
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