The chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank, says there are signs that the world's largest economy is starting to stabilize. But he warns that the success of an economic recovery still depends on government action.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says aggressive actions taken by the United States and many other nations "may well have averted the collapse of the global financial system." But he also says it is too early for the U.S. to change course.
"Despite these positive signs, the rate of job loss remains high and the unemployment rate has continued its steep rise," said Bernanke. "Job insecurity, together with declines in home values and tight credit, is likely to limit gains in consumer spending."
Bernanke says that for the recovery to take hold, the Fed's current policies - designed to increase the availability of credit to businesses and consumers - need to remain in place.
Still, not all lawmakers are satisfied with the government's efforts. "The American people are getting very little bang for their buck, Mr. Chairman," he said.
Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, is among the critics.
"The Obama administration has been spending a staggering amount of money to fund an economic recovery and stimulus that is slow in coming," he said.
One worry is the country's rising unemployment rate, which recently hit a 26 year high of 9.5 percent and is expected to rise even more.
There is also growing concern on the part of U.S. lawmakers, investors and analysts that the current economic crisis will give way inflation.
But Fed Chairman Bernanke says the central bank has the tools it needs to make sure consumer prices do not rise.
"We also believe that it is important to assure the public and the markets that the extraordinary policy measures we have taken in response to the financial crisis and the recession can be withdrawn in a smooth and timely manner as needed, thereby avoiding the risk that policy stimulus could lead to a future rise in inflation," he said.
Bernanke urged lawmakers to make difficult decisions on the future of the nation's health care system. He cited rising medical costs and the coming wave of retirees in the United States as major issues that will significantly affect the country's long-term economic health.