$200K Per Job? Timothy Geithner Says White House Jobs Plan Is Still a Bargain

PHOTO: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is interviewed by ABC News David Muir
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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner didn't dispute a Harvard economist's estimate that each job in the White House's jobs plan would cost $200,000, but said the pricetag is the wrong way to measure the bill's worth.

And he also pointed out, in an interview today with ABC News' David Muir, that there is no other option on the table for getting the economy moving and putting more people back to work.

"You've got to think about the costs of the alternatives," Geithner said when asked about Harvard economist Martin Feldstein's calculation that each job created by President Obama's American Jobs Act would cost taxpayers about $200,000.

"If government does nothing, it does nothing now because they're scared by politics or they want to debate what's perfect, then there will be fewer Americans back to work, the economy will be weaker," he said.

"We can borrow money for 10 years as the government of the United States because people have confidence in this country at less than 2 percent," he said. "The responsible path now is to take advantage of the unique position we're in as a country. People have a lot of confidence in us. Let's take advantage of that now to do things that help growth in the short-term."

Geithner told Muir he believes there is a "very good chance" the Jobs Act will pass because the proposals have seen bipartisan support in the past and the cost of inaction is far too high.

"If the alternative plan is for Washington to do nothing, that's unacceptable," Geithner said. "If the alternative plan is to sit there and say we're going to cut our way out of this by just cutting spending, that would make the economy weaker. Or we're going to sit here and just complain about regulation. ... That will not do anything to help the average family now still suffering so much from the crisis."

At the same time as Geithner is trying to help spur the U.S. economy, he is pushing European leaders to act quickly in the face of a looming crisis.

After a generation of high government spending, Greece is on the brink of bankruptcy and if it collapses it could take down other European economies and leave American banks with $41 billion in losses.

In the last week, the average American's 401k has lost $7,000 because of Europe's instability.

"It hurts people very directly and very quickly when stock prices fall and the value of their pensions fall," Geithner said. "[Greece] borrowed a lot and they spent too much. ... [I]t's going to take them years and years to dig their way out of that. ... I think they have time. But not very much time."

Even in the face of a stagnant economy at home, Geithner said there are signs that things are turning around.

"If you talk to companies around the country like I do, you'll see that something -- something very promising is starting to happen right now," he said. "Companies are starting to relook at where they produce, American companies, companies that moved things to Mexico and China decades and years ago are starting to rethink it.

"With all our challenges as a country, most companies that have the opportunity to produce or to compete around the world, they'll still say it's better to be in a company headquartered in America and we still have the strongest fundamentals," he said.

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