Romer talks about economy bouncing back

June 8, 2009 8:54:00 PM PDT
Christina Romer, Ph.D., the U.C. Berkeley professor who now chairs the president's Council of Economic Advisers, was in San Francisco on Monday. She talked about encouraging signs in the U.S. economy, but also the need to create more jobs.

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Romer meets with the president almost every day. Monday, however, she took a brief break from her duties in Washington and was able to share her thoughts about the encouraging and not-so encouraging signs about the economy.

"There is unquestionably these little shoots of green," says Romer.

Romer says a question she gets asked all the time is where are the shoots of green in the U.S. economy? At the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Monday, the chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers pointed to several: the housing sector is stabilizing, consumer confidence is up and so are orders for durable goods. Regardless, she says all that is overshadowed by the unemployment rate.

"We got unemployment numbers last Friday. Right? So we lost 345,000 jobs. That's utterly horrible," says Romer.

It's about half as many jobs that were lost in January. Still, the Obama administration wants to see improvement faster. On Monday, the president announced much of the details of his stimulus package have been ironed out.

"Now we're in a position to really accelerate. So the goal here is that we're going to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days," said President Obama.

The so-called "Roadmap to Recovery" involves 10 major initiatives, including the construction or expansion of 1,129 health centers, the start-up of 200 new waste and water systems in rural America, improvements to 107 national parks, and the hiring and retention of 5,000 law enforcement officers.

"It was mainly designed to create jobs and to put people back to work, but we also want to do it smart. We don't just want to be spending money on things like digging ditches and filling them in. And so what the president said is if we're going to be spending this money, let's accomplish things," says Romer.

Not everyone though is happy about taking the money. South Carolina's governor tried to block a portion of it until a court ruled he couldn't.

"If a family won the lottery, they wouldn't just go out and spend it all, they'd put some money aside for a rainy day, for paying down the credit card balance or the mortgage and I don't know why state government should be exempt from that same principle," says Governor Mark Sanford (R) of South Carolina.

The president has claimed as many as 150,000 jobs have been saved or created by his stimulus plan so far, even as government reports have shown the economy has lost more than 1.6 million jobs since Congress approved the package in February.

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