The war of words over the Obama administration’s economic policies continued Thursday with Vice President Biden traveling to Ohio to deliver an impassioned defense of the $787 billion stimulus bill the Democratic Congress passed in February and a plea for patience while the spending kicks in.
Prior to Biden’s arrival in Cincinnati, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio released a statement about the visit saying, “I’ll be curious to see what the Vice President has to say, especially on the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ that clearly isn’t working. How will he defend a bill that the White House promised would create jobs ‘immediately’ in a state that still has over 10 percent unemployment?”
On the attack
Biden’s response was to attack the attackers. “Ladies and gentlemen, would they do nothing?” Biden said. “I hear nothing other than the criticism. I hear nothing affirmative.”
Speaking in front of an American Can building being converted with stimulus funds to an economic development project, Biden posed a series of rhetorical questions. "What would they do to help the states to not have to drop millions of people from the Medicaid rolls?” he asked. “What would they do, would they not extend unemployment benefits?”
The vice president argued that the stimulus program was designed to help people “damaged by the irresponsible way the economy was managed” during the Bush administration.
Dealing with doubts
Still, it is clear the Obama team has been stung by some signs of slipping public approval for its economic policies. A recent Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio residents found 48 percent now disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that in late June only 49 percent of Midwestern state residents thought the stimulus package would improve or had improved the economy, down from 60 percent in April.
“As my grandfather would say, be patient but be demanding,” Biden said, counseling patience. He told the crowd that it takes time for the stimulus program funds to be dispersed “because governors and mayors try to be honest” and put the projects out for bid before work can begin.
“The ripple effect of these things is real, it is consequential,” the vice president said.