TAPPER: The president’s talked about — I know there’s a lot in the speech that we don’t know about, but it does seem like infrastructure spending’s going to be part of it. He’s mentioned it several times, including yesterday. There obviously where hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure spending in the stimulus bill, and while that bill may have stemmed the bleeding, it obviously did not prompt the kind of economic recovery that the president had hoped. Why would a new round of infrastructure spending have a different effect?
CARNEY: The — I think your analysis of the recovery act I’ll — hundreds of billions I think may be overstating the amount of actual infrastructure spending. But the — remember, the — what a lot of people don’t know and wasn’t widely reported is that a third of the recovery act, fully a third, was tax cuts. The — and in –
TAPPER: But that still leaves –
CARNEY: And in — and in assistance to states, and there were a lot of different components of it.
TAPPER: I’ll call the Sheriff, he can get us a number.
CARNEY: We’ll get that for you. But the point is, what is uncontestable (sic) is that those infrastructure projects that were funded by the recovery act were very well managed, came in on budget or under budget, and led to the creation of many, many jobs, by an outside, independent analyst. I mean, broadly, the recovery act – I think it was over 3 million jobs, created or supported over 3 million jobs — created or saved over 3 million jobs.
If you’re asking me did it fill the hole created by 8 million jobs lost, the answer is no, because 8 million jobs is more than the 3 million that the recovery act created or saved. That’s how dire the situation was that we encountered when the president was sworn into office.
What it definitely did was, together with the other initiatives the president took in conjunction with Congress — is prevented us from falling into a Great Depression, and began the slow but steady road to recovery, which has led to more than 2 million private-sector jobs created in the last 18 months and economic growth rather than economic contraction.
Nobody is arguing that the growth we’ve seen this year is anywhere near robust enough, or that the job creation we’ve seen is enough.
But even this year, there have been a million private sector jobs created. And we certainly think that the initiatives taken – put forward by the president and taken up by Congress and passed had a lot to do with that.
TAPPER: There’s a new ABC News poll/Washington Post poll out today that shows a record high of American people disapproving of the president’s handling of the economy, of the deficit, of job creation. One in three Americans say they’re worse off now than when President Obama and before President Obama took office. What’s the president’s message to these people?
CARNEY: That he is working every day to take the necessary measures to grow the economy and create jobs, that he fully understands the anxiety that is out there among the American people about the economy, the frustration at the pace of growth, the frustration at the pace of job creation. And that’s why he feels it is so urgent to take action now and not to simply say, oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything and then let it all be decided next year after an election. The American people don’t deserve that. They deserve action now, and that’s why the president will call for action now.
TAPPER: And lastly, Jay, in January, President Obama said after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of the of those who think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” Did he mean that?
CARNEY: Of course he did.
TAPPER: How does the comments — how do the comments by the Teamster’s president fit in with that?
CARNEY: Well, first of all, those weren’t comments by the president. Secondly, as I think has been recorded –
TAPPER: They were comments by a union leader at an event that President Obama spoke at.
CARNEY: I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that, you know, somebody says something and you link the associations and then everybody who has an association with him or her is somehow — has to avow or disavow it. The president wasn’t there — I mean, he wasn’t on the stage. He didn’t speak for another 20 minutes. He didn’t hear it. I really don’t have any comment beyond that, Jake.
TAPPER: OK, well, some of us covered the campaign and recall a time when somebody made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama while — during the introduction of a McCain rally. And the Obama campaign was offended and expected an apology, and Senator McCain came out and did so.
CARNEY: The — Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement — AFL-CIO. The president speaks for himself. I speak for the president. You know, what the president was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on the importance of working Americans and on the importance of taking measures to help working Americans, to create jobs and grow the economy.
TAPPER: So the precedent — so the precedent you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is that Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to, and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates — we don’t have to pay attention to anything that they say.
CARNEY: Jake, I really — I think I’ve said what I can say about that.
TAPPER: Is that the standard now?
CARNEY: You can report it as you –
TAPPER: I’d rather — I’d rather not have to do this Washington kabuki every time something happens. But if that’s — if that’s the standard — if that’s the standard, then –
CARNEY: The standard is we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs instead of focusing on kabuki theater.