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Obama Team on Defensive After CBO Report on Stimulus

12:24 PM, Jan 21, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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A new Congressional Budget Office report suggests Obama's proposed, gianormous stimulus plan is really just a proposed, gianormous spending plan:

Less than half the money dedicated to highways, school construction and other infrastructure projects in a massive economic stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats is likely to be spent within the next two years, according to congressional budget analysts, meaning most of the spending would come too late to lift the nation out of recession.

Congressional Democrats defend the plan by saying the CBO report doesn't examine elements of the plan that would go into action more quickly, such as "$275 billion in tax cuts and nearly $200 billion for jobless benefits, health care for the poor and other entitlement programs," which Dems say will serve to jolt the economy.

"The new CBO report does not take into account the fastest spending provisions in the bill, leaving the false impression that the overall spend-out rates are slower than they actually are," said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But CBO reports are a force to be reckoned with:

Still, the report from the CBO, the nonpartisan arbiter of congressional spending measures, offers a stark assessment of some of the Democrats' top priorities. For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.

David Axelrod suggested on Fox News yesterday that the Obama administration's incoming CBO director disagrees with the current CBO's assessment:

In his interview with Fox News, Axelrod said incoming Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, the outgoing CBO head, has a different view than that of the report put together by CBO under his successor, Robert Sunshine, the acting CBO director.

Axelrod then defended the stimulus, arguing that the government has to act, and act fast. He also said critics were missing the point - "that a lot of these investments are ones that are going to pay dividends in the short term and the long term.

"We should have a discussion and a debate, but we ought to move with all deliberate speed here because we do have a national emergency when it comes to the economy, and that will be our first order of business."

A sizeable chunk of the American public (45%)
is on board with Obama's plan, according to Rasmussen, but supporters of the plan are facing an inconvenient bottom line as they try to push it in Congress:

The CBO report's findings suggest that funds authorized by the stimulus could reach the economy just when many expect it to recover in 2010.