President Obama Refocuses on Health Care/Stimulus

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 13, 2009 9:26am

Back from his overseas trip, President Obama returns his focus to health care reform and the stimulus package, as the two issues face mounting criticism.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post Sunday, the president defended his $787 billion stimulus plan from concerns and accusations criticism that it has been ineffective, asking Americans to be patient.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 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. It was, from the start, a two-year program, and it will steadily save and create jobs as it ramps up over this summer and fall.”

Administration officials point to the roughly $100 billion that has been invested into infrastructure projects and tax cuts, and say that the bulk of the stimulus spending will occur in the next 12 months.

But some Republicans say the stimulus plan has failed to work the way it was intended.

There is also the issue of expectations. Asked by ABC News how the American people should measure whether his economic plans are correct, the president said "my initial measure of success is creating or saving 4 million jobs."

But unemployment is a lagging economic indicator, meaning job growth will likely be one of the last parts of the recovery to start working. With unemployment rising to nearly 10 percent, the stimulus simply hasn't begun to save or create four million jobs.

“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,” Obama wrote in the Washington Post op-ed.

The president also faces a number of hurdles in his push for health care reform as the effort has gone from platitudes and rhetoric to cold hard legislation, with tough choices on how the program will be paid for, or whether it will include a public, government-run health insurance plan.

The president wants to see health care legislation pass through both the House and Senate before the August recess, but Republicans and even some Democrats say that is unlikely.

“We're closer to that significant reform than at any time in recent history,” he said when asked to refocus on his domestic agenda at the speech in L’Aquila, Italy. “That doesn't make it easy. It's hard. But I'm confident that we're going to get it done.”

When questioned whether it is a do-or-die before Congress breaks in August, Obama said, “I never believe anything is do-or-die. But I really want to get it done by the August recess.”

- jpt

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