Biden Wants Recovery Act Business Practices to Become Routine
Elizabeth Newell | Government Executive Magazine
September 04, 2009
“Running the risk of setting myself up for a test I may not be able to pass 18 months from now… I’ve asked, at the end of the day, for us to put together, literally, a handbook on how … [to make] every government program that is administered from Washington be more accountable, be more transparent and done more efficiently,” Biden said, during a briefing on progress 200 days into implementation of the stimulus. “We’ve never followed the dollars the way we are now and this should be the start of a new way of doing business rather than the implementation of a single program.”
Much of the initial focus of the $787 billion stimulus effort was on establishing agency-level systems to responsibly distribute and monitor taxpayer dollars, the vice president said. Once those systems were developed, agencies were able to accelerate spending dramatically during the summer, he said.
“For the second 100 days I gathered the Cabinet together and instructed them that I wanted to be much more aggressive in implementing the programs now that they have the systems in place,” Biden said. “And I take responsibility for mistakes that were made, but I wanted to put more pace on the ball.”
Agencies have met or exceeded 10 goals they set in June, Biden said. Those include beginning work on airport, highway and national park projects; creating 125,000 summer youth jobs; and improving veterans’ medical centers.
Biden also expressed optimism that the stimulus is meeting its primary goal of saving and creating jobs. On June 10, he stated that the recovery effort had saved or created 150,000 jobs during the first 100 days and would save or create 600,000 more during the second 100 days. The White House Council of Economic Advisers will release a report on Sept. 10 with its own estimates of jobs saved and created as a result of the stimulus. Biden said he believes the council’s report will show the administration has met or surpassed its goals.
Republicans, however, seemed as skeptical as Biden was optimistic. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday distributed an e-mail titled, “The Real Facts About the Stimulus Vice President Biden Would Prefer You Not Know.” Among a litany of criticisms, Issa said the administration’s measure of success was flawed.