Vice President Joe Biden cited more positive economic data on Tuesday, using it to buttress the Obama administration's argument that its $787 billion stimulus program is doing its job and revving up the economy.
"I can tell you today, without reservation, the Recovery Act is working," Biden told reporters after a White House meeting about the stimulus program with members of the administration's economic team. President Barack Obama was not present.
Nearly six months after Obama signed the stimulus program into law, the administration is trying to counter criticism, as well as perceptions, that the program has failed to create thousands of promised jobs.
Nationwide unemployment has risen every month since the stimulus took effect in February, climbing in June to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. The July rate, which the government will announce Friday, was expected to be even higher.
‘Put the brakes on the recession’
Obama last week credited the stimulus for helping "put the brakes on the recession" after the Commerce Department said the economy had shrunk at a pace of just 1 percent in the second quarter. The performance was better than economists had expected, and the strongest signal to date that the economic downturn has begun to wind down.
Obama and Biden were taking their economic message on the road this week. Obama was headed to hard-hit Elkhart, Ind., on Wednesday, to discuss the economy. He was sending Biden to Detroit to do the same.
Biden cited other economic data Tuesday in making the administration's case.
He said spending by state and local governments increased 2.4 percent from April to June, after falling the prior six months. "That links directly to the fiscal relief we have provided to the states," the vice president said of the billions in stimulus funds that went to states.
Household income grew at a yearly rate of almost 5 percent in the same period, following declines in the previous nine months. Investments by businesses also contracted less than expected, he said.
‘Less bad is not good’
Biden attributed increased home and car sales to government incentives, such as tax credits for new home buyers and the "cash-for-clunkers" program that gives consumers up to $4,500 to trade in their gas-guzzling vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones.
"Our critics say they don't think this program is helping," he said. "It is helping. I think it would be hard to tell the young family who just bought their first home because of the tax credit or the thousands of people who just traded in gas-guzzlers for more efficient cars that this is having no impact."
Despite signs of progress, Biden cautioned that full economic recovery is still a long way off.
"Less bad is not good," he said.