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The Obama administration says the U.S. economy is rebounding from a painful recession and a severe financial crisis, but the recovery will be slow and uneven. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said America's soaring national debt must be curtailed, but that ensuring sustained economic expansion is of immediate importance.
After a year of shrinking output, the U.S. economy grew last quarter at a 3.5 percent annual rate. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hailed the news, but noted that steep economic hurdles remain. "Just five months after the president [Barack Obama] came into office, we got growth restarted. But it is just the beginning. We have a ways to go. Unemployment is high and still rising. This is a very tough economy, still, for huge numbers of American businesses," he said.
Geithner, who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, said it will take time before average Americans perceive economic improvements. "This is going to be a different recovery than [those seen] in the past, because Americans are going to have to save more. A lot of damage was caused by this crisis. It is going to take some time for us to grow out of this. It could be a little choppy, it could be uneven, and it is going to take a while," he said.
Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. But recent reports showed U.S. consumer confidence dipping and consumer spending down as government subsidies to purchase new cars have ended and tax credits for first-time home buyers are soon to expire.
That has led to charges by Republicans the economic recovery is an illusion, funded by inefficient government spending that has weakened America's long-term economic position by vastly expanding the national debt. House Minority Leader John Boehner said "The [federal] stimulus bill is not working. Unemployment is rising. The debt to be paid by our kids and grandkids is exploding. Enough is enough."
But Treasury Secretary Geithner insists the $787-billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in February has worked to stop the plunge of an economy that was in freefall when Mr. Obama came into office. And, despite continuing bank failures, Geithner says America's financial system has also been rescued and a catastrophic credit squeeze has eased.
The treasury secretary did not dispute Republican contentions that mounting federal deficits are creating an unsustainable level of national debt. "It is going to have to come down. It is too high, and I think everybody understands this. We have two central imperatives: restore growth and create jobs, but make sure people understand we are going to have to bring those fiscal deficits down as growth recovers. First growth, though. Without growth you cannot fix those long-term fiscal problems," he said.
Geithner said he is encouraged by legislative progress on bills to reform America's health-care system and reduce health care costs, which he said will improve the nation's fiscal outlook.