July 9, 2010— -- President Obama continued barnstorming the country today to herald the much-maligned stimulus bill.
"Now, the simple truth is, it took years to dig this hole," Obama told an audience at the University of Nevada, "and it's going to take more time than any of us would like to climb out of it. But the question is, number one: Are we on the right track? And the answer is, 'yes.'"
Why is Obama still selling the stimulus 17 months after the money started flowing into the country? The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 7 in 10 Americans think there has been no economic benefit from the $862 billion stimulus legislation, so the president is out to convince the majority of the American people that they're wrong.
On Thursday, President Obama swept into the heartland of America with a similar economic message. In Kansas City, Missouri, he visited an electric truck plant that was the beneficiary of a $32 million stimulus grant. Recently, the company hired its 50th employee and expects to hire 50 more.
"At this plant, you're doing more than just building new vehicles," Obama told the assembled employees of Smith Electric Vehicles. "You are helping to fight our way through a vicious recession."
The Congressional Budget Office says that, as of March, the stimulus bill saved or created anywhere from 1.2 million to 2.8 million jobs.
"There's some people who argue that we should abandon some of these efforts," Obama said. "My answer is, come right here to Kansas City. Come see what's going on at Smith Electric. I think they're going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you're not better off than you would be if we hadn't made the investments in this plant."
Still, roughly 15 million Americans are unemployed. When the number of underemployed, part-time workers and workers who are discouraged from looking are added in, that number rises to 26 million.
"Without the stimulus, we would be looking at an unemployment rate of 11 percent or higher, so it is not that the job market is good or anything like that. It is not," said Gus Faucher, with Moody's Analytics. "But it would be much worse without the stimulus."
However, the phrase, "it could be much worse," doesn't seem to make a very compelling bumper sticker. So the president is still out in the country arguing that there's still a lot of stimulus money to be spent.
About $387 billion remains from the stimulus bill, which equals a little less than half the original total.
Forty-five million dollars of that has already been promised to Massachusetts to construct a broadband network. That program will create an estimated 2,900 jobs by 2013.
Judith Dumont, director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute said the work is critically important.
"The area has been so hard-hit with these economic times," Dumont said. "They've lost manufacturing jobs on top of that, so they're in desperate need of these jobs."
More of the stimulus money is at work in Monroe, Michigan, where $2.3 million will be used to build wind turbine towers. That program will create another 340 jobs.
In Las Vegas today, President Obama heralded another one of his "success stories," a solar power equipment company, Amonix, which received a $9.5 million tax credit. Through that credit, the company will be able to create 445 jobs.
"The tax credit definitely had us stay in the U.S.," said Amonix CEO Brian Robertson. "In fact, it levels the playing field with other countries like China and Germany that provide similar incentives to manufacturers, so I would say it really helped us stay in the United States and make an American-made product."
The White House has said it expects to create another million jobs with the remaining $387 billion.