With the economy still firmly in the grip of a tenacious recession, President Barack Obama is urging Americans to have patience and give his economic recovery plan time to work.
Restating themes he laid out in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said in an op-ed posted early Sunday on The Washington Post's Web site that his $787 billion stimulus program was not expected to return the economy to full health, but to provide a boost that would stop the free fall.
"So far, it has done that," the president wrote. "It was, from the start, a two-year program, and it will steadily save and create jobs as it ramps up over this summer and fall."
He said his stimulus plan must be given time to work and appealed to Americans, who are increasingly uneasy with rising unemployment and ballooning budget deficits, to let his plan "work the way it's supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity."
The stimulus included $288 billion in tax cuts, dramatic increases in Medicaid spending, about $48 billion in highway and bridge construction and billions more to boost energy efficiency, shore up state budgets and improve schools.
Since Obama signed it into law, the economy has lost more than 2 million jobs and the unemployment rate has climbed higher than the White House predicted it would have ever reached without the stimulus.
Some companies say stimulus money helped avoid layoffs. Independent government auditors found that stimulus aid to states helped keep teachers off unemployment lines.
The public has said in polls that it was willing to give Obama time to deal with the economic mess he inherited from President George W. Bush, but with unemployment pushing toward 10 percent, that patience will likely be tested.
Republicans, sensing a political opening, have seized the opportunity to argue that Obama's economic stimulus plan was expensive and ineffective.
"Simply put, this is now President Obama's economy and the American people are beginning to question whether his policies are working," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip, said in the GOP's weekly address.
Obama, in the op-ed, said "Even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, I have insisted that we must rebuild it better than before."
Health care costs must be controlled, jobs created within the U.S., worker training programs established and budget deficits reduced, he said.