White House Budget Director Peter Orszag argued today that President Barack Obama inherited many economic woes from his predecessor but was confident about what the new administration will be able to accomplish as it puts its own stamp on economic policy.
"We are like a relief pitcher stepping into the ninth inning and we can't just redo the whole game," Orszag told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. He said that the economic lows have been "eight years in the making," citing signs of loss from 2007 and 2008 during the Bush administration.
Orzag listed the alternative plans Republicans have put on the table: One by the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, includes three trillion dollars in tax cuts "for the wealthy and corporations." Orzag also criticized the GOP plan for Medicare (giving a lump sum check to people when they turn 65 to cover all future medical expenses) and Social Security (investing funds in the stock market). "I'm not making this stuff up," he said incredulously. "That is their alternative plan.
"As Ronald Reagan once put it, there they go again," Orszag bemoaned. "We have had eight years of one approach, did not work."
When asked by Schieffer if the White House is considering the possibility of an additional stimulus package (beyond the $789 billion in aid signed by the president last month), Orszag said, "Within the first month in office we got the recovery act enacted; we should give it some time to work.
"It will take weeks and months for it to start to have an impact," he said, noting that the country is facing "a very deep and severe economic contraction."
That contraction appears to be worsening, Schieffer opined: "It seems as if every time the Obama Administration announces a specific effort to help the economy, Wall Street tanks." He also played the president's comments last week comparing the stock market to political tracking polls.
The Budget Director said that he does not feel investors have lost confidence in Mr. Obama, and that the White House is focused on recovery in particular areas which "corporate leaders and others have long said is the key to our economic future: a better education system, clean energy and a more efficient healthcare system."
The Budget Director also defended the president's healthcare proposal: "I think as people start to look at that proposal in more detail and compare it to the alternatives. They are going to come around to our proposal."
He reiterated the president's desire to enact healthcare reform in 2009, saying there was a lot of momentum behind getting it done by the end of the year. Orszag also said that the administration's healthcare proposal will likely meet some criticism in Congress and encouraged lawmakers to offer alternatives.
"I think they should come on this show, offer a detailed plan to what we are talking about, and I will let the American people evaluate the two ways forward," he challenged.
Schieffer spoke of opposition to one aspect of the president's plan, in which an
expansion of healthcare is funded by reducing the charitable deductions available to upper-income taxpayers, and asked if the president were rethinking that strategy.
Orzag said the proposal the White House put on the table is a "good proposal" but encouraged dissenting voices to put forth their own ideas.
"As the legislative process moves forward other people are going to put proposals on the table; let's let that play out," he said.
More from Face The Nation (3.08.09):
To watch video of Peter Orszag and John Boehner on Face The Nation click below.