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This afternoon I took part in a media and blogger conference call with Jared Bernstein, the chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden. The subject for the briefing and questions which followed was the “impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan”:

Jared Bernstein:…Thanks very much…I’m a, I’m really glad to be talking, uh, to this group. I talk to lots of different groups. And while I, I can’t see you, uh, I know you’re out there. And, uh, I’m glad of that. Um, folks may know, uh, some of my work. I was, uh, blogging for the Huffington Post before I, I came here.

Um, I’m just gonna quickly talk about, uh, where we are, uh, how I think we got here and how I believe, uh, this plan, ah, is, uh, critical to getting us back on track, uh, economically. Um, where we are is at best told from an economist’s perspective, and that is my curse, uh, by reflecting on some jobs numbers. Uh, last month, uh, we lost six hundred thousand jobs. Uh, that is the worst month for job losses in over three decades. And that got a lot of attention, because that kind of number just kinda, uh, screams out for precisely the kind of attention it got. The, the thing that maybe didn’t quite land as much in people’s thinking was the fact that the prior two months were revised such that they were almost just as bad. So over the past three months we’ve lost close to two million jobs. That’s a little bit less than a per cent of the, uh, of the, uh, employment out there in, in the country. And this is a, uh, a very serious, uh, uh, acceleration in the rate at which the job market is, is declining. Now, you know, when you’re talkin’ about it at that level it sounds, you know, fairly antiseptic. But the President, the Vice President have been traveling to venues where unemployment is, uh, uh, a lot higher than it was a year ago and, and in the case of Elkhart, Indiana and Fort Myer, Florida, basically in double digits. And these are folks who are facing, um, this tough economy on the ground. Uh, it’s, uh, as many of you know, and it’s one of the things that I think put our administration here in the first place, there are lots of middle class families that were having trouble even when the economy was expanding.Well now it’s contracting, and, uh, those folks don’t have a lot to fall back on. So this is, this is, this is very difficult times…

…And the urgency that those kinds of statistics, but more importantly, those kinds of people’s experiences, the urgency that that puts in, that that put into, uh, moving this legislation was something that was not lost on us here, uh, uh, at the White House. And thankfully I think not lost on many in Congress as well. And, uh, I’m very pleased to see, uh, the bill, uh, coming out of conference, passed by the House and the Senate, uh, and, uh, as I, as I already said, uh, it’s not over ’til it’s over. But, uh, we’re, uh, we now have a, uh, a deal struck on a stimulus, uh, package that’s, uh, about a huh…a seven hundred ninety billion pac…, we can talk a little bit about the, the composition of this if folks want. Um, look, uh, let me preempt one question there or just some thoughts there. Um, this is a political process with many, uh, moving parts and lots of different people with lots of different constituents. Um, there’s no bill that’s gonna come out of this process that every, every player is gonna say is perfect. But, and here I’ll, I’ll, I’ll wind down with this set of comments here, um, uh, because like I said I wanna tell you how I think this bill helps us get it out, get us out of where we are.

Um, you know Christina Romer who’s the, uh, chair of the, uh, Council of Economic Advisors here, uh, she and I wrote a paper a few weeks ago looking at, uh, uh, the job impacts that we would expect from a bill like this. And w.., we, we found that this, this package, uh, will create, uh, or, or save, uh, three to four million jobs over the course of the next couple of years. And that for us is the bottom line because, while there’s a whole bunch of talk right about, uh stock portfolios, uh, uh, most American families get by on their pay checks, not their portfolios. And so, uh, if they’re not, if they’re not working, uh, they’re, if they’re not drawing a pay check, if they can’t buy, if they are working but they can’t find the hours they need to make ends meet, uh, uh, they’re hurting.

Uh, and, uh this package, with its investments in infrastructure and roads and bridges and water systems, in schools, in, uh, the, uh, in, in, in making a down payment on, uh, the electric, uh, on, on the smart, uh, grid that, uh, is  critically important if we’re going to begin, begin to implement, uh, President Obama’s energy agenda. Uh, if we’re going to move, uh, uh, our IT over into health technology so we can, uh, uh, move towards electronic records, controlling costs and lowering error rates. Uh, if we’re going to make, uh, uh, investments in, in, in, in weatherization retrofits. Those investments are in here. Uh, they’re not, uh, the complete package by any stretch of the imagination, but remember, this is a, uh, a package that’s, uh, uh, supposed to spend out over a couple of years and then, uh, and, and then wind down, uh, by, uh, by late, uh, next year. Uh, we obviously need to continue and deepen those investments in the areas of energy and health care, particularly that’s one of the things this President ran on. Uh, but, uh, those down payments uh, are, are important. To save time, the package, uh, uh, has, uh, some different tax cuts. Uh, the making work pay tax cut which is, uh, um, one, another, uh, part of the President’s platform. Uh, that helps boost the pay checks of ninety five per cent of working families by five hundred to a thousand dollars.

Uh, that package, once we get this medicine into the system, that, these interventions will begin to, to create those three, uh, to four million jobs. They’ll help states that are facing budget constraints, they’ll help create economic activity, that’s uh, that’s missing, uh, in, in terms of, uh, of in…infrastructure, in terms of retail, in terms of, uh, uh, financial markets, in terms of really every sector of the economy. In fact, Christy and I found in our paper that ninety per cent of jobs we create will be in the, in the private sector.

So, uh, uh, I’m confidant that, uh, uh, the, uh, recovery act, um, is going to start turning this, uh, uh, the, this economic problem, uh, around. Uh, it’s not gonna happen tomorrow, it’s not gonna happen next month, uh, we, uh, uh, are going to face economic challenges, uh, even with this plan in the system. Uh, everyone know that or should. Uh, but it’s certainly gonna help a lot. I’ll stop there and, and, uh, take some questions…

The paper by Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein:

The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan [pdf]

Our previous coverage:

It’s the stimulus, stupid

Transcript(s) of the media questions and answers will follow in later posts as the Show Me Progress corporate headquarters transcription elves get to them.