Obama to Seek Stimulus Funds – But ‘You Won’t Hear the S Word’

ABC News’ Rick Klein ( @rickklein ) reports:

With President Obama set to unveil his plan for job creation at a Joint Session of Congress next week, a former White House economic adviser said today that economic “stimulus” will be part of the package – but won’t be labeled as such.

“You won’t hear the word ‘stimulus’ — the ‘s word’ — because that just is politically unappealing right now,” Jared Bernstein, who left his post as Vice President Joe Biden’s top economist in June, told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today. “But you will hear targeted measures, which I think is actually a more apt description of what I think the president will talk about.”

“He’ll want extend the payroll tax holiday. He’ll want to extend unemployment insurance. He’ll have some ideas for infrastructure. Maybe something to help repair the schools — that’s an idea that a number of us have been pushing – a program called FAST: Fix America’s Schools Today, which could get hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing the backlog of maintenance in the nation’s stock of public schools.”

“So there are good ideas out there, and it’s really a matter of the politics,” Bernstein added.

Bernstein, now a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the jobs measures already enacted under the Obama White House – including the stimulus package that passed in early 2009 – represented a “middle-ground” approach of targeted tax relief and additional spending.

He said those efforts “have actually helped a lot” in terms of boosting the economy – though, of course, more must be done.

“The facts of the case are that measures that the administration has taken, that Congress has supported, that the Federal Reserve has taken, have actually helped a lot. It’s just that the hole — the economic hole — has been so deep that there’s just been no conceivable measure that on its own could fix everything,” Bernstein told us.

“It’s just not reached the kind of escape velocity that you need for the private sector to kind of take the baton over. So we still need the kinds of measures we’ve been doing. We just stopped too soon,” he added.

Bernstein warned that the White House can’t be timid, even while acknowledging the political difficulties.

“The most direct way to create jobs is direct job creation,” he said. “The most direct measures we did I think were the most successful. Some of those were in the infrastructure side, some of those were fiscal relief to the states, which helped them retain literally hundreds of teacher, police, firefighters, sanitation workers. Some of them were measures that — so some measures like that we probably could have and should have done more on in terms of getting as close as we could to direct job creation.”