Assessing a tough governmental juggling act, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner assured lawmakers Wednesday that stimulus spending to spur the economy now isn't in conflict with a need for longer-term austerity.
Geithner told the House Budget Committee that before the federal government can begin attacking soaring deficits and a massive national debt, it needs to increase jobs and ensure economic growth.
"Without growth, we cannot begin the process of restoring fiscal responsibility," the secretary said in prepared remarks. He offered a forceful endorsement of administration policies, ranging from expanded health care to tougher banking regulations.
But Geithner focused his opening comments on the recession relief and job stimulus components of the Obama administration's $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2011. Those efforts total nearly $300 billion in proposed spending.
Geithner's testimony came as Obama faces growing pressure to both address stubbornly high unemployment and to confront a rising pool of red ink. But even under Obama's ambitious budget blueprint, unemployment would still be pushing double digits at 9.8 percent and this year's deficit would increase to $1.56 trillion under the administration's accounting.
Geithner was sure to encounter sharp questioning, especially from Republicans, over the president's spending plans, his own stewardship of the financial sector, and the state of unemployment despite a massive stimulus package last year.
"My guess is the American people think enough is enough," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, told Geithner. "When they hear more stimulus all they see is more debt."
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