On anniversary, Obama defends economic stimulus

* Administration officials across country promote stimulus

* Skepticism widespread at one-year anniversary of launch

* Obama accuses Republican critics of hypocrisy

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama
vigorously defended his $787 billion stimulus on Wednesday,
insisting it rescued Americans from the worst of the economic
calamity and ripping Republican critics who called it a waste.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden launched a sweeping
effort to convince skeptical Americans that the stimulus has
been beneficial on the one-year anniversary of a plan that was
pushed through the U.S. Congress by Democratic majorities.

Obama, in a White House speech, said he believed the
stimulus will save or create 1.5 million jobs in 2010 after
saving or creating as many as 2 million jobs thus far.

His point was to show that the stimulus, while admittedly
unpopular, had the effect of keeping the U.S. economy from
plunging into a second Great Depression.

“Our work is far from over but we have rescued this economy
from the worst of this crisis,” he said.

As Obama spoke, many Obama administration officials were
fanning out across the country this week to promote projects
that have been funded by the stimulus to show Americans its
results.

For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded
$1.5 billion on Wednesday in stimulus grants to local and state
governments to back 51 transportation projects.

The White House hoped that once Americans in their towns
and cities saw the results of the stimulus, they would realize
it has helped.

Obama has much work to do to convince Americans who are
still struggling to find work amid a 9.7 percent jobless rate.

A CBS News/New York Times poll last week found that only 6
percent of Americans believed the package had created jobs.
Another poll by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation showed a
majority opposed the stimulus program.

ELECTION YEAR PRESSURE

All this comes as Obama and his Democrats face pressure to
show results in an election year in which their large
majorities in Congress could be at risk.

Republicans eager to score political points emailed out to
reporters the original administration estimates from a year ago
that showed the U.S. jobless rate would only rise to 8 percent
under the stimulus.

“In the first year of the trillion-dollar stimulus,
Americans have lost millions of jobs, the unemployment rate
continues to hover near 10 percent, the deficit continues to
soar and we’re inundated with stories of waste, fraud and
abuse,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

“This was not the plan Americans asked for or the results
they were promised,” he said.

Obama used a portion of his speech to accuse Republicans of
hypocrisy, saying they have enjoyed its benefits even as they
criticized the plan.

“There are those, let’s face it, across the aisle who have
tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even
as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for
projects in their districts,” Obama said.

He said he recognized that many Americans are not
benefiting from the stimulus.

“Millions more are struggling to make ends meet. So it
doesn’t yet feel like much of a recovery. And I understand
that. It’s why we’re going to continue to do everything in our
power to turn this economy around,” Obama said.

With Congress now working on a multibillion-dollar jobs
bill, Obama warned of the possibility this year of layoffs by
state governments as funding from the stimulus runs out.

Stock Market Today

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Lisa Lambert;
Editing by Eric Walsh)

On anniversary, Obama defends economic stimulus