With more than half of the $787 billion recovery package yet to be spent, Obama aides said the administration is not ready to commit to additional measures.
“Everything is on the table,” senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said.
“You’ve got this huge national deficit and we’ve got to do what we can to bring that down. At the same time, it’s important to stimulate the economy,” Jarrett said. “Let’s wait and see. Let’s let the recovery bill do its job.”
Unemployment stands at 9.8 percent, with more than 4 million jobs lost this year. The deficit has reached $1.4 trillion and the national debt $11.9 trillion.
Adviser David Axelrod cited progress on reviving the economy, with expectations for growth in the third quarter this year. But he warned that the government should not make the mistake of ending its recovery initiatives too early at the risk of sending the economy back into recession.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t look to the mid- and long-term for deficit reduction,” Axelrod said. “We have a stimulus program in place, an economic recovery program in place, that is not even 50 percent through. We have to see that through. And we’ll see what other measures we need to take.”
In appearances on the Sunday news programs, the advisers criticized those Wall Street firms that are paying huge amounts in compensation and benefits after accepting taxpayer assistance. Goldman Sachs, for example, has said it has set aside $16.7 billion for compensation so far this year, more than $500,000 per employee. Citigroup is paying $5.3 billion in bonuses to its employees and Bank of America $3.3 billion.
“I think the American people have a right to be frustrated and angry,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
Emanuel and the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said the compensation issue comes as banks and other financial institutions oppose efforts by the president and Congress to put in place regulations designed to prevent the kind of financial meltdown that began last year.
“They have a responsibility to the whole system,” Emanuel said. “And it starts with not fighting the financial regulatory system and the reforms that are necessary to protect consumers, homeowners and others.”
Dodd criticized banks for failing to make more credit available to small businesses and others.
“When you see these bonuses being paid out, it’s a source of outrage in the country, and it should be. What are these people thinking about at these companies?” he said.
Dodd said he hopes that Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department’s point man on compensation, can take action that will lead the firms to reconsider their compensation plans.
Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he believes procedural differences holding up an extension of unemployment benefits will be resolved soon. He said a way to cover an extension without adding to the deficit has been determined, but he offered no specifics.
Gregg said the latest deficit figures are evidence of “growing the government too much.”
“This deficit is driven by us. I mean, you talk about systemic risk. The systemic risk today is the Congress of the United States,” he said. “We’re creating these massive debts which we’re passing on to our children. We’re going to undermine fundamentally the quality of life for our children by doing this.”
Jarrett and Dodd appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Axelrod on ABC’s “This Week,” and Emanuel and Gregg on CNN’s “State of the Union.”