By Scott Wilson
Vice President Biden acknowledged today that the administration underestimated the depth of the economic recession months ago as it prepared a recovery package that is only now beginning to take effect.
"We misread how bad the economy was, but we are now only about 120 days into the recovery package," Biden said on ABC's "This Week." "The truth of the matter was, no one anticipated, no one expected that that recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having distributed the bulk of the money."
Figures released last week showed that the national unemployment rate has reached 9.5 percent, and that the economy is still shedding nearly half a million jobs a month.
President Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus package within his first month in office to slow the economic slide by replacing retreating private-sector demand, in part, with government spending.
But criticism has been mounting from the left and right, albeit for different reasons, that the plan was misconceived.
Administration officials have argued for weeks that the economic projections made before Obama took office presented an overly optimistic view of the economy, a case Biden reiterated in blunt terms today.
Conservative critics have used the mounting job losses to argue that the stimulus package - a mix of government spending and tax cuts - should have been titled more toward the latter than it was.
Meanwhile, liberal economists such as Paul Krugman have argued for more public spending, just as the stimulus money begins trickling into the economy.
After acknowledging the economic "misreading," Biden said "the second question becomes, did the economic package we put in place, including the Recovery Act, is it the right package given the circumstances we're in?"
"And we believe it is the right package given the circumstances we're in," he said.
Asked if a second stimulus package is needed, Biden said it is "premature to make that judgment."
Instead, he said, the administration will monitor the effect of the government spending in the coming months, as the public-works projects financed by federal funds move from the planning stage to the hiring and construction phase.
"And so this is just starting," Biden said. "The pace of the ball is now going to increase."