The Obama administration made a strong plea to Congress on Monday to grit its teeth and pass a new set of spending measures – dubbed the “second stimulus” by some economists – in order to help dig the economy “out of a deep valley.”
The call for action, which was made by Lawrence Summers, Barack Obama’s senior economic adviser, who urged Congress to pass up to $200bn (£138.9bn) in spending measures, came at the same time as Mr Obama asked Capitol Hill to grant him powers to cut “unnecessary spending.”
The combined announcements were made amid rising concern that centrist Democrats, or those representing marginal districts, might vote against the spending measures, which include more loans for small businesses, an extension of unemployment insurance and aid to states to prevent hundreds of thousands more teachers from being laid off.
The move comes at a time when last year’s $787bn stimulus is wearing off. Mr Summers argued that it would be a premature move at this stage in the cycle to move to fiscal discipline. “I cannot agree with those who suggest that it somehow threatens the future to provide truly temporary, high-bang-for-the-buck jobs and growth measures,” he said. “Spurring growth, if we can achieve it, is by far the best way to improve our fiscal position.”
Taken together, Mr Summers’s speech and Mr Obama’s announcement show an administration walking a fine line between the need to signal strong medium-term fiscal discipline and not jeopardising what they fear may be a fragile recovery.