After much criticism that the $787 stimulus bill hasn’t created enough jobs and isn’t being distributed quickly enough with more than $700 billion of it unspent, President Obama and Vice President Biden debuted their new summer mantra: they will, they said, create or save 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days.
But their 600,000 figure comes at a time when other numerical projections and claims have been questioned.
In a meeting in the State Dining Room, the president and his No. 2 told the Cabinet that they need to identify new projects that are certain to be up and running in the second hundreds days of the administration.
“It's about pace on the ball,” Vice President Biden said. “Every hundred days, if we're doing this right, Mr. President, should produce more than the last hundred days. So Mr. President, by the fall I think we're going to be much further down the road to recovery.”
The President referenced Friday’s jobless numbers – the nation lost an additional 345,00 jobs in the month of May — to frame the desperate situation at hand, but one that is showing, in their eyes, signs of modest improvement.
The jobless number of 345,000 “was far less than was expected, but it's still too many,” President Obama said.
“Having said that, this was the fewest number of jobs that we have lost in about eight months,” he president said, “so it was about half the number lost of just a few months ago. And it's a sign that we're moving in the right direction. The key is for us to build on the modest progress that has been made in the months to come.”
The administration last month claimed that 150,000 jobs had already been saved or created due to the stimulus bill, though that number is based on a theoretical projection and not an actual count.
As ABC News’ David Kerley points out, last week Keith Hall, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told a House subcommittee that he could not substantiate the claim.
“No,” Hall said. “That would be a very difficult thing for anybody to substantiate…We're busy just counting jobs.”
In January, when the Obama team began presenting their pitch for the stimulus plan, they denied an overly rosy scenario. But the chart then-President-elect Obama’s economic team provided to the public indicates that the unemployment rate, which is currently 9.4%, is higher than the Obama team forecast it would be even if the stimulus plan had not become law.
Back then Council of Economic Advisers chair Christine Romer predicted that with the stimulus bill, the unemployment rate right now would be under 8%. Without the $787 billion stimulus package, Romer predicted an unemployment rate of just over 8%.
Today the president expressed pride in the transparent fashion that the implementation of the first round of stimulus money, and proudly noted that there has not been a rash of scandals involving the misuse of stimulus funds.
“We're going to do it continuing to operate in a transparent fashion so that taxpayers know this money is not being wasted on a bunch of boondoggles,” said Mr. Obama. “And I think that sometimes good news comes in what you don't hear about, and you haven't heard a bunch of scandals — knock on wood — so far. That doesn't mean that this thing is going to be flawless, but I think it is fair to say that given the speed with which we've acted, all of you can be proud that many of the safeguards and transparency measures that have taken place so far seem to have worked.”
Just last week at a small business roundtable at Pace University, “Sheriff Joe” Biden cited scandals as a reason the spending wasn’t happening as quickly as some would like. “Some people are being scammed already,” Biden said, adding that “there are going to be mistakes made” with stimulus money. “There's been some criticism that we've not gotten enough money out so far," Biden said. "Well look, since I'm the guy who was put in charge of it, I want to make sure in the first 100 days we do it right."
If there were unreasonable expectations for how quickly the stimulus bill would create jobs, the White House is not immune from blame. Though various officials often said the bill would take time to work, that was not always the consistent message, especially in February when the White House was lobbying Congress to pass the bill. Larry Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, told CNN on February 9, 2009, “you'll see the effects begin almost immediately.”
And during a visit to the Caterpillar Plant in East Peoria, Ill., President Obama suggested that “if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off." But CEO Jim Owens, asked if the stimulus package would be able to stop 22,000 announced layoffs, said, "I think realistically no. The truth is we're going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.”
Five months later, Mr. Obama – addressing critics – argued that there are some who still don’t believe in the necessity of the stimulus bill.
“I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and in fact decided to hire employees,” he said. “Tell that to the Americans who receive that unexpected call saying, ‘Come back to work.’ Tell it to the Americans poised to benefit from critical investments that this plan makes in our long-term growth and prosperity.”
The President said the while some signs of the economy are improving, the barometer he is using is if American workers are seeing progress in their daily lives.
“The only measure of progress, is whether or not the American people are seeing some progress in their own lives. And so although we've seen some stabilizing in the financial markets and credit spreads have gone down, we're seeing a reduction in the fear that gripped the market just a few months ago, stock market is up a little bit — all that stuff is not our ultimate goal.”