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Obama aides contrast Wall Street bonuses with unemployment
With unemployment at 9.8 percent and projected to go higher, Obama is facing mounting political pressure to take further government action to create jobs, but at the same time he is confronted by a near-record budget deficit that cries out for fiscal austerity.
Aides called joblessness a daily concern for Obama but added that the administration is constrained by the ballooning budget deficit, which hit a post-World War II record of $1.4 trillion in the fiscal year that ended last month.
"There is this conundrum -- you've got this huge national deficit; we've got to do what we can to bring that down. At the same time, it's important to stimulate the economy, and the federal government has to do its part," said senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on NBC's "Meet the Press." ". . . So let's wait and see. Let the recovery bill do its job, and then we'll see."
Administration officials have stressed that the $787 billion economic stimulus package is only about half spent, and they are counting on coming expenditures to boost the job market over the next year.
With midterm elections looming in just over a year, Obama is coming under pressure from congressional Democrats to do more to create jobs. While the pace of job losses has slowed considerably since Obama took office, unemployment has crept up to a 26-year high, and about half those out of work have been jobless for six months or more.
Labor Department statistics show that there are about six unemployed people for every available job. Many Democrats are concerned that voters will punish them at the polls for the continued problems in the job market.
Last week, Obama approved $250 payments to Social Security recipients who otherwise would have seen their payments remain flat. His administration also is backing legislation pending in Congress to extend unemployment benefits. Obama's economic advisers also are weighing a range of other measures that would save or create jobs or help those out of work, including another round of aid to fiscally strapped states, tax credits for small businesses that hire new workers and extension of federal help for jobless workers who buy health insurance.
"Everything is on the table," Jarrett said.