President Obama headed to Ohio Friday as part of the White House's efforts to highlight the progress they say the stimulus package has made in pulling the American economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Calling America's infrastructure "one of the keys to our future prosperity", Obama visited a construction site outside a downtown children's hospital for the groundbreaking of the 10,000th stimulus-funded road project to get underway, one that is expected to create 300 jobs.
With the economy and jobs at the top of voters' minds this election year, the administration is keen to make the case for what Obama has done to turn the economy around and to paint Republicans as the party that stood in the way. Today in Ohio, the president made a point of thanking Democratic members of Congress for their help.
"We knew that if we failed to act, then things were only going to get much worse and that's why with the support of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, but also members of the House of the Representatives Mary Jo Kilroy [OH-15], Steve Driehaus [OH-1] and Charlie Wilson [OH-6] who are all here. Wave, guys," Obama said. "That's why these folks worked so hard to pass the Recovery Act."
The Columbus event -- which marked the president's eighth trip to this important bellwether state since taking office -- kicked off what the White House is calling its "Recovery Summer", the most active season yet for stimulus projects. For the next six weeks, the president, the vice president and administration officials like Labor Sec. Hilda Solis and Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack will visit some two dozen stimulus projects around the country to highlight ramped up stimulus spending on infrastructure projects and the jobs they will create.
Obama touted the 4.5 million Ohio families who received tax cuts from the stimulus, the roughly 450 transportation projects that are underway or have been completed in the state and the more than 100,000 Ohioans who are at work today as a result of the law and said the economy nationwide had also been helped by policies his administration helped push through Congress.
"For the last -- six out of the last seven months, we've increased jobs here in the United States of America, in part because of the policies that these members of Congress were willing to step up and implement," he said. "
Critics say the $787 billion stimulus package has added to the deficit, while doing little to create jobs. The White House says the Recovery Act has already funded tens of thousands of projects and "saved or created" about 2.5 million jobs.
But the administration's message about the Recovery Act's positive effect on the economy doesn't seem to be getting through to the American public. Last month's NBC/WSJ poll, just 38% said the stimulus was helping to improve the economy or helping to improve the economy in the future.
Unemployment remains high at 9.7 percent and only about one-10th of the 400-thousand plus jobs created last month were in the private sector. Vice President Joe Biden yesterday stood by the administration's prediction that 90 percent of the jobs ultimately created by the stimulus would be in the private sector, even though many of the positions the law has "saved" so far have been those of teachers, police and firefighters.