Happy 1st Birthday Recovery Act! White House Marks Anniversary by Touting Success

By Jonathan Blakely

Feb 17, 2010 8:36am

By Karen Travers: One year ago, President Obama’s first year in office stretched out before him and he had an ambitious agenda – sweeping health care reform, energy legislation, and bottling up that enthusiasm and activism from the campaign trail and bringing change to Washington. When President Obama sat down at that desk at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science one year ago today to put his signature on the Recovery Act, did he expect that on the bill’s first birthday, it would be considered the signature piece of legislation of his administration so far?  Break out the birthday cake and party hats. Today the Obama Administration marks the anniversary of the Recovery Act by pointing to two things – the legislation spurred economic growth and stemmed rising unemployment. Asked by Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos if the “biggest bang” from the stimulus was behind us, White House economic advisor Christina Romer said “Absolutely not.” Romer, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, projected that there will be positive job growth by this spring. Republicans, of course, take a different view and are using today’s anniversary to highlight big spending by the Obama Administration and the stimulus act’s failure to turn the economy around and create jobs. Yesterday senior administration officials “declined to say if the legislation was the signature piece of legislation from the president’s first term,” ABC News reports. Vice President Biden will deliver a report to the president today on the progress of the stimulus legislation in its first year. The administration maintains that the legislation saved or created about two million jobs and will save or create another 1.5 million jobs in 2010 as the program shifts from direct payments to projects that will spur job creation and economic growth.  But the American public is skeptical. A new CBS-New York Times poll found that just six percent of Americans believe the stimulus act has created jobs. A CNN poll last month found that nearly three-quarters of Americans think the stimulus money has been wasted. The Obama Administration will seek to assuage those concerns with a huge push to tout the stimulus act at one year. President Obama will mark the anniversary with remarks at the White House today and will highlight Americans who have benefitted from stimulus funding. Administration officials will fan out across the nation over the next three days, hitting up 35 communities, in a media blitz intended to shine a spotlight on the positive impact the legislation has had on states and local communities. Biden kicked off the effort yesterday in Michigan, which leads the nation in unemployment. In Saginaw, an area particularly hard hit by the decline in the American auto industry, Biden said the Recovery Act has been a success. “It’s taking a while to get out of this ditch, but it’s working. It’s working,” Sheriff Joe said. “The act has succeeded in helping pull us back from the brink.” TIME’s Michael Scherer takes a look at Biden’s warnings that the American public could sour on the Recovery Act if there was widespread fraud and waste. Scherer reports that while Biden’s effort on that front “has basically been a success,” the American public still hates it.  “In short, the crowning legislative achievement of the first year of Obama’s presidency is, as Biden predicted, a political disaster,” Scherer writes. Last night an email from former Obama for America campaign manager David Plouffe popped into supporters’ mailboxes asking them if they’re “wondering what …President Obama’s stimulus bill — has accomplished?” Shouldn’t they already know?
ABC News’ Jake Tapper notes that the fact that “Plouffe feels the need to tell Obama supporters what the stimulus bill has accomplished speaks volumes about how successful the Obama administration’s selling job has been (to say nothing of how Democrats feel the media has reported the stimulus bill’s impact.)”
Republicans have their own counterpunch planned to mark the legislation’s birthday and intend to focus on a lack of results. “In the first year of the trillion-dollar stimulus, Americans have lost millions of jobs, the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent, the deficit continues to soar and we’re inundated with stories of waste, fraud and abuse. This was not the plan Americans asked for or the results they were promised,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. The NRSC found inspiration in Google’s Super Bowl ad to mark the stimulus anniversary with this video, “Boondoggle.”
But the DNC has its own web video highlighting what it deems as Republican hypocrisy on the stimulus – criticizing the legislation, voting against it – and then taking funds. 
The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan sums up the stimulus act at one year thusly: “A year after it became law, the stimulus package costs more than promised, has failed to keep down the unemployment rate and has faced charges of waste and abuse.” Ah, but there is a “but” – “But the federal spending – all of it borrowed – has helped many states avoid painful budget cuts to their education and public safety budgets, and according to official estimates has helped the gross domestic product grow faster than it would have otherwise.” Though “the idea has gained little traction in Washington,” applying stimulus funding directly towards job creation has worked at the state level and allowed companies to hire new workers, The New York Times’ Michael Cooper reports. About that Army Corps of Engineers’ drinking-water projects and USDA flood prevention program that President Obama wants to get rid of? They each received stimulus funding,” Matt Kelley reports in USA TODAY. “More than $3.5 billion in economic stimulus funds are going to programs that President Obama wants to eliminate or trim in his new budget,” Kelley writes. So remember the frantic buzz about a scathing and potentially career damaging article that the New York Times was cooking up on New York Gov. David Paterson? Today the New York Times published a story about the rise of a top Paterson aide, David W. Johnson, and detailed his criminal history, including a charge of selling cocaine to an undercover officer in Harlem.
“Mr. Johnson’s increasing prominence, and Mr. Paterson’s reliance on him, have worried some veteran aides to the governor, who themselves are trying to assist Mr. Paterson as he faces an enormous fiscal crisis and a daunting election effort,” Danny Hakim and William Rashbuam write. If this is the Paterson story that has been sparking so much buzz, some may be asking today, ‘that’s it?’ Paterson pushed back against the Times news judgment in running the story and said that the conclusions the report reached “are not supported by facts.” “The New York Times has chosen to splash his youthful offenses across the pages of its newspaper – even though the courts of our State have ordered them to be sealed,” he said. “There is no independent evidence presented that would substantiate any claims of violence committed by David Johnson against a woman, a fact underscored by the absence of a single judicial finding that any such incident ever took place. I would caution others from making a similar rush to judgment.” The fallout and analysis from Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement announcement on Monday continues and now the questions are swirling over whether the Indiana Democrat was right to throw up his hands at the partisanship in Washington and say ‘That’s it, I’m out.’ Dan Balz of The Washington Post writes that given Bayh’s hefty campaign war chest and early lead in the polls, the Indiana senator’s decision to hang up his hat “could be taken by other Democrats as one more piece of evidence that the energy so far this year is on the right.” The New York Times’ Jackie Calmes said the “unwillingness of the two parties to compromise to control a national debt that is rising to dangerous heights” is Exhibit A for the hyper-partisanship that Bayh pointed to. “Yet rarely has the political system seemed more polarized and less able to solve big problems that involve trust, tough choices and little short-term gain,” Calmes writes. “The main urgency for both parties seems to be about pinning blame on the other, before November’s elections, for deficits now averaging $1 trillion a year, the largest since World War II relative to the size of the economy.” Moderates feeling unloved and feeling like they cannot get a seat at the (partisan) cool kids’ table is nothing new, write Laurie Kellman and Henry C. Jackson of the Associated Press. But…”More than their feelings are at stake. The moderates in the middle are the ones who tend to make deals and sometimes resolve standoffs blocking decisions that affect programs — not to mention taxes — that touch virtually every American.” Now Indiana Democrats have to settle on a candidate, as the deadline to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot ended on Tuesday at noon without a Democratic name – much to the relief of party insiders. “Crossed off the list was Tamyra d’Ippolito, a political neophyte who insisted Tuesday morning that she’d collected the 4,500 signatures necessary to be on the May 4 ballot. She fell thousands short,” the Indianapolis Star’s Mary Beth Schneider reports. “Democratic insiders were relieved. The only thing worse for them than no Bayh on the ticket was an unknown Bloomington cafe owner with no political savvy and no ability to raise the millions it will take to preserve whatever chance Democrats have for holding on to this seat.” President Obama was not shy in expressing his frustration when a measure to establish a bipartisan debt commission was defeated in the Senate (with seven Republicans voting against it after originally co-sponsoring the measure). Obama said he would do it by executive order if it came to that. Well it did and he will. Tomorrow the president will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission will make recommendations on how to reduce the skyrocketing national debt, ABC News’ Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report. The 18-member commission will be co-chaired by former President Bill Clinton’s former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, the former Senate Republican Whip. The commission will have some hefty work ahead. “The commission’s job will be to help bring down the federal budget deficit to 3% of gross domestic product by 2015, compared with nearly 10% today, and to propose ways to hold down the surging costs of government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The president will also ask the panel to look at the U.S. tax code and has not ruled out tax increases for the middle class should the commission deem them necessary,” Jonathan Weisman writes in the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery caught up with Simpson at his home in Cody, WY and the independent-minded former senator didn’t mince words when talking about Republicans hemming and hawing on participating in the commission. “If they don’t participate, they run a real hazard in these times,” he said. “The [Senate] election in Massachusetts was not so much a glorious Republican victory as a bunch of people who were damned mad saying, ‘Why don’t you get a handle on this stuff?’ You can’t get a handle on it if you don’t participate.” As a savvy hoopster, Obama knows the benefits of a home court advantage. After successfully navigating the full-court press put on by the House Republican Conference in Baltimore last month, the White House knew it had a good thing going and wanted to get Obama back in front his critics – and television cameras.  Heading into next week’s health care summit at the White House, which the president will moderate on camera, the conventional wisdom has been that the West Wing has set up an atmosphere so favorable for Obama, it could rival Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. But perhaps the optics won’t be enough for the White House to pull out a victory – “Republicans say they have a different advantage: Polls show Americans side with them on the substance. All they have to do is remind viewers that’s the case, and they could chalk up something like a win that could make the going even tougher for the Democrats,” the AP’s Erica Werner reports. As the White House gets ready for next week’s health care summit, ABC News’ Rick Klein reports that a group of Democratic senators are making one last attempt to get the Senate to vote on a public option. The senators, backed by several liberal groups, are pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to “use special budget rules that allow a simple majority — rather than the customary 60 votes — to pass legislation.” A four hour meeting between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and representatives of dozens of tea party organizations ended with an agreement…to meet again, POLITICO’s Andy Barr and Kenneth P. Vogel report. “Activists said they will not back down from primary challenges to Republicans candidates, and asked if they left the meeting as ‘loyal Republicans’ the group unanimously shouted ‘no.’” the POLITICO duo write.  Nobody expected that getting climate change legislation through Congress in an election year would be easy. And now it looks like three major companies who had a seat at the table are abandoning ship “in the latest sign that support for an ambitious bill is melting away,” reports Stephen Power and Ben Casselman in the Wall Street Journal. “Oil giants BP PLC and ConocoPhillips and heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. said Tuesday they won’t renew their membership in the three-year-old U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a broad business-environmental coalition that had been instrumental in building support in Washington for capping emissions of greenhouse gases.” “For companies, the shifting winds have reduced pressure to find common ground, leading them to pursue their own, sometimes conflicting interests.” Progress on climate change on Capitol Hill may seem as likely as cooperative weather conditions in Vancouver for the Winter Games. So Obama can attempt to move forward through his budget, which the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Power reports, “calls for an array of regulations, subsidies and taxes aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, even as a sweeping climate bill sits on ice in the Senate.”
Robert Ford, a career foreign service officer and current deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, was nominated yesterday to serve as the first U.S. Ambassador to Syria since 2005. POLITICO’s Laura Rozen writes that the timing of the announcement “great deal to do with Washington’s efforts to signal Iran that its failure to engage will lead to greater international isolation and pressure.”http://bit.ly/9o6Qre The Kicker: “It’s been fascinating to watch just over the few days…since I’ve joined it.  I have enjoyed watching you all comment on women’s figure skating and ski-jumping,” – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the latest addition to the world of Twitter, on the insights of the White House Press Corps. For up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note’s blog . . . all day every day:

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