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."
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, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, 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."
In the meantime, the current spending isn't doing enough, Republicans said.
"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 television's "This Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press." Graham and Romney appeared on NBC.
The that households had pushed their savings rate to the highest level in more than 15 years in May, as a big boost in incomes from the government's stimulus program was devoted more to bolstering nest eggs than increased spending.
The higher savings rate is healthy in the long term, economists said. But without vigorous consumer spending, the government may have to do more to revive the economy, possibly through further tax breaks and spending.