WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden claimed Thursday that the $787 billion stimulus plan "is doing more, faster, more efficiently and more effectively than we had hoped."
In a speech noting the 200-day mark since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was approved, Biden said that $62.5 billion in tax cuts had been delivered, $1.9 billion in contracts had been awarded to small businesses and more than 10,000 transportation projects had been approved.
In many areas, Biden said, work has exceeded goals:
- Work has started on 2,200 highway projects, for example, 700 more than expected at this stage.
- Work's also started on 192 airport projects, 94 more than scheduled.
- Health care centers in all 50 states are providing expanded care to 500,000 patients, 200,000 more than forecast.
Biden also said that several planned projects were on schedule.
Work is under way to build 200 new waste and water systems in rural America, which he said would provide clean drinking water to 4.5 million residents. Work also has started or been accelerated at 20 contaminated Superfund sites, Biden said.
Some projects are coming in under budget, he boasted.
Construction contracts at the Defense Department so far are 12 percent under budget on average. Also, the General Services Administration reports that most other bids are coming in at 8 percent to 10 percent below estimates.
"Recovery act dollars are going farther and working harder than we anticipated," Biden said at the Brookings Institution, a center-left policy research organization in Washington.
Biden also claimed success at creating jobs and heading off a depression, two subjective and difficult-to-prove claims.
On jobs, he said that the administration already had met its goal of saving or creating 135,000 school jobs and 5,000 law enforcement jobs. It's difficult, however, to prove how many jobs would've been eliminated and were saved only because of the stimulus money.
Biden also claimed that the stimulus spending so far has warded off a much worse crisis.
"There is a growing consensus that the recovery act succeeded in avoiding a depression and is effectively working to help catalyze our recovery," he said. "Two hundred days in, we know there is much more to be done. But we also know that thanks to the recovery act, where we are today is a much better place than where we might have been."
Republicans challenged Biden's claim of better-than-expected progress.
"Remember, when they pitched the stimulus bill, their top economic advisers said, if passed, the stimulus bill would keep the unemployment rate under 8 percent," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate.
Instead, unemployment hit 9.4 percent in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, also noted that unemployment was rising faster than the White House had predicted.
"The fact is the economy has lost more jobs, and the unemployment rate is significantly higher, than the administration originally predicted would be the case if Washington did nothing," FactCheck.org said. "In fact, the original projections of Obama's economic aides have turned out to be off by a very wide margin."
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