Video: Axelrod: U.S. yet to break recession’s back

  1. Transcript of: Axelrod: U.S. yet to break recession’s back

    MR. GREGORY: All right, let me move to the economy. You were on this program back in February and this is what you said.

    MR. GREGORY: Will this stimulus plan prevent unemployment from reaching 10 percent, do you think?

    MR. AXELROD: Well, that's our hope. That's our hope. There's no doubt that without it that's what, that's where we were looking, double-digit unemployment. And that's what we're trying to forestall.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, with the stimulus plan we're at 9.4 percent unemployment. The president said this week it will go above 10 percent.

    MR. AXELROD: Mm-hmm.

    MR. GREGORY: It leads Republicans to say the stimulus is a failure and to say, where are the jobs?

    MR. AXELROD: Well, look, everyone -- at the time that I spoke, every single economic prediction was that the recession would be less severe than it turned out to be. This recession that began last year is the worst that we've had in generations, and so unemployment is higher than any of us would like. But to suggest that it wouldn't have gone higher had we not done the things we did I think is totally misleading.

    MR. GREGORY: But the facts...

    MR. AXELROD: And no, no, no serious...

    MR. GREGORY: The facts are even with the stimulus ...

    MR. AXELROD: No, no...

    MR. GREGORY: ...it went higher.

    MR. AXELROD: Well, there's no doubt that we didn't, that we, we have not broken the back of the recession and -- but there's no serious economist, David , who would argue that what we did has not contributed to a lessening of the impact. No one's happy with that number. The president said when the stimulus -- when the Recovery Act passed that it was going to take a long time, that, that employment was the last thing that was going to turn, because that's the way economics works. And so, you know, we're going to have to sail through some very difficult times here. But the question is, are we moving in the right direction? Are we building a foundation for economic growth for the future? And does this, does this economic recovery package help? And the answer is yes.

    MR. GREGORY: Warren Buffett said this week more stimulus might be needed. Does the president believe that?

    MR. AXELROD: Well, let's see how this, this stimulus works.

    MR. GREGORY: All right.

    MR. AXELROD: As everyone has noted, much of the spending is yet to come. And let's see how this works before we start talking about the next steps .

    MR. GREGORY: How much time before you make a decision about whether more stimulus is needed?

    MR. AXELROD: Well, let's see in the fall where we are. But right now we believe that what we've done is adequate to the task. If more is needed, we'll have that discussion.

updated 6/28/2009 2:26:45 PM ET 2009-06-28T18:26:45

A senior White House adviser said Sunday the economic stimulus has not yet "broken the back of the recession" but set aside calls for a second massive spending bill. Republicans, meanwhile, called spending under way a failure.

White House adviser David Axelrod urged patience for President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package in the face of sliding poll numbers. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a past and potentially future presidential candidate, said the spending was ill-designed and served only to expand the size of government.

Republicans have seized on the public's growing unease over government debt and spending to challenge the popular president. Sensing their own vulnerabilities, Obama's top advisers have ramped up their defense of spending that is incomplete and going slower than many had hoped.

"You know, we take the long view on this. Look, when the president signed the stimulus package — the economic recovery package — he said it's going to take a while for this to work," Axelrod said. "And we're going to go through some rough times, and unemployment is going to go up, and ... we have to work our way through this."

'It took years to get into the mess'
Some economists and business leaders have called for a second spending bill designed to help guide the economy through a downturn that has left millions without jobs. Axelrod said it's too early to know if more spending would be needed or if the administration would seek more money from Congress.

"Most of the stimulus money — the economic recovery money — is yet to be spent. Let's see what impact that has," Axelrod said. "I'm not going to make any judgment as to whether we need more. We have confidence that the things we're doing are going to help, but we've said repeatedly, it's going to take time, and it will take time. It took years to get into the mess we're in. It's not going to take months to get out of it."

Republicans, though, aren't waiting.

"I don't think the stimulus that was passed is going to be much help," Romney said. "The stimulus that was passed was, unfortunately, focused more on government and creating employment inside government than it was creating jobs in the private sector."

Another Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Obama and his Democratic allies rammed through the spending bill without Republican support or significant input.

"He missed a chance to have a bipartisan stimulus package that would have created more jobs and helped people who'd lost their jobs," Graham said. "I hope they'll rethink it."

'It has not been successful'
In the meantime, the current spending isn't doing enough, they said.

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"For the millions of extra people who are going to be unemployed, it has not been successful," Romney said. "It has failed in delivering the stimulus that was needed at the time it was needed."

Axelrod acknowledged the economic challenges and unemployment inching close to 10 percent nationally.

"Well, there's no doubt that ... we have not broken the back of the recession," he said. "No one's happy with that number."

Axelrod appeared on ABC's "This Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press." Graham and Romney appeared on NBC.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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