President Barack Obama has promised that his $787 billion stimulus plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. But the economy has fared worse than the White House predicted when it pitched the jobs plan and officials have sought to beat back criticism that the results did not justify the huge combination of tax cuts, state aide and government spending.
In its first report to Congress on the stimulus, the White House Council on Economic Advisers said the economy would have been far worse without the stimulus. The report was scheduled to be released Thursday afternoon. An official who reviewed it summarized its findings on condition of anonymity because it had not been released.
The report attributes the million job figure to the stimulus and other policy actions but says the driving force behind the job creation is the stimulus.
The report is certain to draw criticism because the U.S. economy has actually lost about 2.5 million jobs since the stimulus was signed in February. Because the White House number is based on economic models, it's impossible to say for certain what that number would have been without the stimulus.
Republicans have struggled at times to find their voice when criticizing the stimulus. Even as they criticize its sizable price tag, some Republicans lawmakers have called for even more spending on transportation and infrastructure projects. Some lawmakers who voted against the bill have turned around and touted it when it sent money into their districts.
Obama administration officials and some economists believe the stimulus is helping the economy recover and, when it does, the criticism will fade. Thursday's report will bolster that claim, but officials know the most important number remains the unemployment rate, which sits at 9.7 percent.
School districts that have been forced because of budget cuts to lay off teachers earlier this year have been able to hire at least some of them back, thanks to federal stimulus money. But the funds have not been able to prevent totally the dismissals of teachers, the reduction or cancellation of programs for gifted or special-needs students, and other cuts to state budgets for K-12 and higher education.
As The New York Times pointed out Tuesday, federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have been able to replace some of the cuts in state and city school budgets caused by drops in tax revenues - but barely so in states where the overall budget deficits have proved calamitous.