Faster action sought on stimulus

Obama expects unemployment rate to hit 10%

During a news conference yesterday, President Obama said it was not yet time to decide whether the country needed a second economic stimulus. During a news conference yesterday, President Obama said it was not yet time to decide whether the country needed a second economic stimulus. (Mandel Ngan/ AFP/ Getty Images)
By Jim Kuhnhenn
Associated Press / June 24, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Amid rising public impatience with an economy now under his watch, President Obama yesterday said his administration needs to push money out faster to initiate a recovery and conceded unemployment would rise above 10 percent.

“People are going through a very tough time right now,’’ Obama said at a White House news conference. “And I don’t expect them to be satisfied.’’

For the second time in a month, Obama voiced unease over the results of a $787 billion economic stimulus that he pressed Congress to pass as one of his first acts as president.

New polls indicate the president faces some erosion of support over his economic policies. Other polls show Americans are more upbeat than last year but still wary of spending, a prescription for a slow recovery.

Obama’s lowered expectations for employment served to prepare the public for more economic bad news even as the economy shows signs the worst of the recession is over. Unemployment typically continues to rise even as an economy begins to recover.

Asked for his assessment of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Obama said he has performed “a fine job under very difficult circumstances.’’

Bernanke’s term ends Jan. 30 and speculation about his replacement has centered on Lawrence Summers, Obama’s top economic adviser and a former Harvard University president. Asked whether he would keep him on the job, Obama demurred: “I’m not going to make news about Ben Bernanke.’’

Obama said the Fed had done better than other agencies in regulating the financial sector leading up to the Wall Street crisis, but he faulted the Fed for not anticipating the risks that contributed to the meltdown last fall.

Republicans pounced on the president’s economic message, with House Republican leader John Boehner noting that nearly 3 million jobs have been lost this year. “The president did not lay out a clear path for how his administration will keep its promise to create jobs for middle-class families and small businesses.’’

In January, Obama’s economic team predicted unemployment would rise to no higher than 8 percent with the help of $787 billion in government spending. The unemployment rate in May reached a 25-year high of 9.4 percent. Obama aides have said the economy took a turn for the worse since their initial forecast.

He said his administration needed to increase the pace with which it is spending the $787 billion that Congress approved at the start of his presidency.