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As Obama Touts Stimulus, Americans Are Skeptical

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As Obama Touts Stimulus, Americans Are Skeptical


As Obama Touts Stimulus, Americans Are Skeptical

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Welcome to recovery summer - at least, that's what the White House is calling it. The Obama administration is pouring billions of dollars into summer construction projections, hoping to get Americans back to work. To highlight the effort, President Obama joined a group of hardhat construction workers in Ohio today. He was there to break ground on a road-improvement project funded by economic stimulus money.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

(Soundbite of applause)

SCOTT HORSLEY: The groundbreaking, near Nationwide Children's Hospital in downtown Columbus, marks the beginning of the 10,000th road-improvement project funded by the stimulus. President Obama says pouring all that concrete and widening all those lanes has created a lot of needed jobs, both directly and indirectly.

President BARACK OBAMA: They've put thousands of construction crews just like this one to work. They've spurred countless small businesses to hire because, you know, these are some big guys here. So they got to eat, which means that you got to get some food brought in - or the local restaurants here benefit from the crews being here at work.

HORSLEY: But the president acknowledged many more jobs are needed, with national unemployment still at 9.7 percent - and Ohio's jobless rate even higher. This summer, the nature of stimulus spending will shift away from preserving jobs in state and local government, towards more public works. There will be six times as many highway projects as last summer, eight times as many national parks projects, and 20 times as many water projects.

Pres. OBAMA: Instead of worrying about where their next paycheck is going to come from, Americans across the country are helping to build our future and their own futures.

HORSLEY: But pollster Michael Dimock, of the Pew Research Center, says the administration has a political problem. Americans don't believe all that asphalt the government's paying for is putting us on the road to recovery.

Mr. MICHAEL DIMOCK (Pollster, Pew Research Center): The public doesn't feel we've turned the corner yet. They're still pretty gloomy about the state of the economy, and they're skeptical that the stimulus plan passed last year has really made much of a difference.

HORSLEY: In a Pew survey this month, more people say they think the president's policies are hurting the economy than making it better. The largest group think the policies haven't made much difference. In fact, many independent economists say the stimulus has helped to revive the economy and prevent even bigger job losses.

But Vice President Biden, who oversees the program, says it's totally understandable that many Americans don't see it that way.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: It's real simple. The measurement is, is it feeling better? Am I more confident? Can I go - instead of getting my haircut every seven weeks, can I go back to getting it done once a month or once every three weeks? Can I take a vacation? Am I going to buy this car? Do I feel better - I'm going to be able to make my mortgage payment?

HORSLEY: The administration is planning a high-visibility campaign this summer to promote stimulus projects with more televised groundbreakings, and a lot of Recovery Act logos posted along freeways and in national parks. Dimock cautions the recovery summer campaign could be a double-edged sword.

Mr. DIMOCK: Seeing those signs may remind people the government is taking steps to try to help the economy and provide jobs, but it also reminds people the government's spending a lot of money - and that's not so popular right now.

HORSLEY: Indeed, concern about government spending is so strong, the Senate was unable to muster the votes this week to extend unemployment benefits. The government doesn't have a lot of time to change people's attitudes about the economy. Recovery summer will be closely followed by midterm election autumn.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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