What’s the more pressing issues facing Americans: the deficit or jobs? Apparently Washington and Main Street disagree over the answer to that question. Concerns are mounting on Capitol Hill over the national deficit. President Obama has said cutting the deficit will be his main focus for the next two years. Republicans fresh from election wins are also eager to target the ballooned federal government. Meanwhile, an 18-member bipartisan deficit commission created by President Obama is currently looking for ways reduce the $1.4 trillion deficit and rein in long-term debt. The commission’s goal is to identify $229 billion in savings in 2015 to reduce the deficit to 3% of the overall economy.
Outside of Washington however, the deficit is not the most pressing issue facing the country. A recent CBS poll finds that just 4% of voters see the deficit as the main priority for Congress next year. The majority of respondents, 56%, say the most important issue for American is the economy and job creation.
Still, the Obama administration insists the stimulus bill is working. The White House today said the $800 billion stimulus law passed in 2009 continues to improve economic conditions and create jobs. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers issued a report concluding that the controversial law has been a significant factor in the economic recovery. The report also states the stimulus has created or saved 2.7 million to 3.7 million jobs through the third quarter of 2010. Obama economists predicted in early 2009 that the stimulus would save or create 3.5 million jobs
Unemployment however, remains at 9.6%. And the results of the midterm elections reflect a highly polarized nation. Still the Economic Policy Institute has been quick to point out that right now things could be much worse. The group noted back in August that with nationwide unemployment close to 10% and millions of jobs still needed to return to pre-recession employment levels, it can be easy to overlook the enormous economic progress that has been made since early 2009, when monthly job losses averaged almost 750,000 and GDP was severely contracting. The EPI asserts that if the federal government had not intervened to rescue the economy, today’s unemployment rate would be closer to 16%.