UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich.—The year-old federal Recovery Act that has pumped billions in stimulus dollars into economically devastated states such as Michigan is working well, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday, disputing Republican claims that it has failed.
The Democratic vice president was in the Saginaw area, dispatched by President Barack Obama to defend the $787 billion stimulus plan on its first anniversary.
"It's gonna take us a while to get us out of this ditch, but it's working. It's working," Biden said after touring a job training program at Delta College that he said benefitted from stimulus cash.
He later ate lunch at a Saginaw restaurant and toured the Thomas Township headquarters of Hemlock Semiconductor Group, which makes materials used in solar power technology. Both businesses also benefitted greatly from stimulus cash, he said.
"I absolutely refuse to accept the notion that the United States of America is not going to lead the world economically throughout the 21st Century," he said during remarks to supporters on the Delta campus.
"Second place is not an option for us," he said.
As part of an effort to convince a skeptical public that the stimulus is helping, Obama this week is sending Biden and other high-ranking administration officials across the country to defend the program.
Republicans say the deficit-spending program has failed.
"For the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, every job created in Michigan is a step in the right direction," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "Unfortunately, the administration spends more time parading officials into the state to make promises than they spend delivering on them."
Michigan has had the nation's highest unemployment rate for much of the past four years. It slightly improved in December for the third straight month, dropping slightly to 14.6 percent. But it still towers above the national rate of 10 percent.
The governor's office says $10.6 billion in Recovery Act funding has been invested in the state.
Biden encouraged stimulus skeptics to look at the case of Justo Gonzalez, a Saginaw-area native and resident who lost his job in the auto industry last March.
Gonzalez heard about a program at Delta that offered training to become a chemical process technician. He had his tuition paid by stimulus money, graduated in October and now is employed by Hemlock Semiconductor.
"Life has a funny way of working things out," Gonzalez said before introducing Biden at the Delta event.
Biden was expected to present a report to Obama on Wednesday assessing the effects of the stimulus plan.