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Obama Economic Team has Wide-Ranging Assessment

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New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange

Economic aides to President Barack Obama are offering varying assessments of where the U.S. economy stands two months into the new administration. Leaders of Mr. Obama's economic team took to the airwaves Sunday.

Last week saw U.S. financial markets rally amid upbeat news from the nation's beleaguered banking sector that outshone another dose of discouraging numbers on employment, business inventories, and other economic indicators.

But if the economy and financial markets are giving mixed signals, key members of the Obama administration also appear less than uniform in their economic pronouncements.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press program, the head of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, was asked if the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound.

"Well, of course the fundamentals are sound in the sense that the American workers are sound," said Christina Romer. "We have a good capital stock. We have good technology. We know that, temporarily, we are in a mess."

National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers at the White House on 23 Feb 2009
National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers at the White House on 23 Feb 2009

Far more somber was the director of Mr. Obama's National Economic Council, Larry Summers, who spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"We have an economy that is losing 600,000 jobs a month," said Larry Summers. "That [job loss] is probably not going to stop imminently. And so while there are signs that some of the things that the president is doing are starting to have effect, these problems did not get made overnight. They did not get made in a year. And they are not going to get fixed very rapidly, either."

All administration officials stress the key to recovery is the implementation of the president's full economic agenda. Mr. Obama has already made significant strides to that end, according to economic advisor Austan Gooslbee.

"In the first 51 days of this president, the administration has passed a series of really dramatic moves: the biggest financial rescue package that we have seen in decades, the largest stimulus in the history of the country, the biggest home foreclosure prevention and mortgage assistance program since the [Great] Depression." said Austan Gooslbee.

Goolsbee also appeared on Fox News Sunday.

Republicans are showing no inclination to support President Obama's proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year, which would dramatically boost government spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"Let us take a look at the budget the president is offering," said Mitch McConnell. "It will double the national debt in five years and triple the national debt in 10 years. It taxes too much, it spends too much, it borrows too much. What we really ought to be doing here is concentrating on fixing the financial system and the housing problem. Not using this crisis as an excuse to go on an explosion of spending."

President Obama says he inherited massive government debt and a sinking economy from his predecessor, President Bush, and that only drastic action will correct the situation while investing in the nation's needs pertaining to health care, energy independence, and education. Republicans accuse the president of taking advantage of the economic crisis to push an overly ambitious and ill-advised domestic agenda. They say they hope to rein in Mr. Obama's budget through legislative amendments.

Mr. Obama's budget numbers and deficit projections assume a return to moderate economic growth next year, with robust expansion in the years that follow.

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