Moving the Stimulus Goalposts

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

With public confidence in the stimulus package showing signs of ebbing, the Obama administration is continuing to sell its impact with nation-wide events and press appearances.

Today brings this explanation, from Christina Romer, the chairman of the president’s Council on Economic Advisers: Stimulus spending, Romer told the Financial Times, is “going to ramp up strongly through the summer and the fall.”

“We always knew we were not going to get all that much fiscal impact during the first five to six months. The big impact starts to hit from about now onwards,” Romer said.

We’ve known for some time that the money takes a while to get out the door.

But top Obama advisers haven’t always been so cautious in predicting how long the stimulus would take to be felt.

Back in February, with Congress moving swiftly to approve President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, White House budget director Peter Orszag said the benefits of the stimulus would “take weeks to months” to be felt.

Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council, was even more optimistic: “You'll see the effects begin almost immediately,” Summers told CNN in February.

Just last month, Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, joined administration officials in asserting that the stimulus was already working, despite rising unemployment rates.

“The idea here is that, yes, the unemployment rate is rising, but it would be rising more quickly [without the bill],” Bernstein said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.” “We're spending about $1 billion a day -- and, by the way, with very careful oversight -- and that's creating, again, economic activity that would not have occurred in the absence of this plan. That's the essential point.”

Then there’s the case of the now-famous chart, prepared in January by the Obama transition team to forecast employment rates with and without a stimulus bill in place.

Obama’s economic advisers saw unemployment cresting at just below 8 percent with the stimulus in place; without it, they forecast the national rate topping out around 9 percent.

The stimulus, of course, did pass, though the national unemployment rate is now 9.4 percent. Two weeks ago, President Obama predicted that unemployment will top 10 percent this year.

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