U.S. President Barack Obama visited Columbus, Ohio Friday to mark the groundbreaking on the 10,000th road project funded by the American Recovery Act. The president's visit is part of the administration's efforts to shine a spotlight on the impact of the approximately $800 billion stimulus package on job creation. But some economists say the stimulus is creating fewer jobs than the White House claims.
A little more than a year after Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama says the U.S. economy is on the path to recovery. "And today I return to Columbus to mark a milestone on the road to recovery: The 10,000th project launched under the Recovery Act. That's worth a big round of applause," he said.
The president's visit to Ohio is part of a six week push to focus attention on the impact of the approximately 800 billion dollar stimulus on job creation.
Vice President Joe Biden is Mr. Obama's point man on the Recovery Act. "Thus far, we have allocated over $620 billion of the Act, and as a result, the Recovery Act is responsible for somewhere between 2.3 million and 2.8 million jobs that were either saved or created," he said.
A growing number of economists say the stimulus has indeed kept more Americans away from the unemployment lines.
But Alan Viard, senior fellow at the conservative leaning American Enterprise Institute, says the White House numbers are inflated. "The fact that unemployment has remained so high does suggest that the stimulus has not had as large an impact as the administration claims," he said.
Without the stimulus, Viard admits unemployment would be higher than the current 9.7 percent, but he says the massive cash infusion into infrastructure projects has created fewer than a million jobs. "I think it made sense to do the stimulus, but it should have been smaller and better focused than the administration certainly did," he said.
Opposition Republicans claim more than three million jobs have been lost since the bill's passage, and they say it contributes to the nation's soaring debt.
While analysts say no one knows for sure how many jobs the stimulus has created, President Obama says he's under no illusions that one program alone can solve the nation's economic problems. "So while the recovery may start with projects like this, it can't end here," he said.
The economy is sure to be among the top issues in the November elections.
The administration is counting on an improving job picture to keep majority control of both houses of Congress. But Republicans insist only the private sector, and not government, can turn the U.S. economy around.