Rep. David Obey said concerns about the federal deficit shouldn't trump efforts to repair the economy and create jobs.
"We must address the debt and budget deficits for the long-term
health of our nation," Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations
Committee, said in a long statement released Monday. "As we do so, we
must not fail to deal with three other serious deficits: a jobs
deficit, an income deficit, and an opportunity deficit."
Obey (D-Wis.), who helped craft the $862 billion stimulus, said
the actions taken by President Barack Obama and the Democrat-led
Congress were necessary to prevent another Great Depression even though
they added to the country's red ink.
Last year's deficit hit a record $1.4 trillion, while the
deficit for this year should reach $1.5 trillion, according to the
Congressional Budget Office. Annual deficits over the next 10 years
will average almost $1 trillion, the CBO has said.
But the cost of the stimulus will account for less than one-tenth of those deficits, Obey said.
"We took these actions despite the fact that they would
temporarily raise the deficit over the short term, because we
recognized that the long-term deficit will not come down unless the
economy begins to grow enough to reverse the job loss and start putting
people back to work," Obey said. "That is now finally beginning to
Democrats have touted last week's labor report showing a net
gain of 162,000 jobs - the biggest jobs increase since 2007 - as
evidence that the stimulus and their other efforts are working to turn
the economy around.
Republicans have repeatedly called for an end to stimulus
spending, arguing that federal debt will constrain economic growth.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said in his first Senate news conference
that the stimulus hadn't created one new job, a claim Obey dismissed.
"Some naysayers say that the Recovery Act has not saved a
single job," Obey said. "If they cannot see that assertion is not true
it is simply because they don't want to see."
Obey said deficits should be brought down over time, but not at
the expense of middle-class workers who haven't seen real increases in
income or job and education opportunities.
"We recognize we have to bring long-term deficits down, but
even as we do so we have to recognize that there are deficits and then
there are deficits," Obey said. "We need to distinguish between deficit
spending that is simply a form of short-term gratification versus
deficits that are run in the short term to finance investments that
will strengthen the economy over the long haul. Policymakers are
supposed to be able to distinguish between the two."