Opinion: Obama to Jindal: Put stimulus over political ambitions


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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was all over the airwaves this weekend, fomenting about how President Obama’s $787-billion stimulus package would actually hurt the U.S. economy.

‘The best thing that Washington could do to help Louisiana and all of our states with our budgets is to get this economy moving again, ‘ Jindal said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here. I don’t think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money.’


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Jindal was not the only governor crinkling up his nose at some of the strings in the stimulus package. But the first-term governor from Baton Rouge, who on the same show did not rule out a run for the presidency in 2012, was the most vocal.

And today, the morning after he hosted the governors and their spouses in the first formal Obama White House dinner depicted at the top of the post, President Obama seemed to be talking directly back at Jindal.

In remarks to the National Governors’ Assn. at the White House, Obama noted a ‘healthy debate’ on the issue, saying that disagreement ‘keeps me on my toes. It keeps our administration on our toes.’

But, he added, when the healthy debate turns into partisan wrangling, it distorts the agreement between Republican and Democratic governors over 90% of what’s in the stimulus...

...package. ‘There’s going to be ample time for campaigns down the road,’ he said. Here’s more of what he had to say:

But I just want us to not lose perspective of the fact that most of the things that have been the topic of argument over the last several days amount to a fraction of the overall stimulus package. This sometimes gets lost in the cable chatter. For example, I think there are some very legitimate concerns on the part of some about the sustainability of expanding unemployment insurance. What hasn’t been noted is is that that is $7 billion of a $787-billion program. And it’s not even the majority of the expansion of unemployment insurance. ...

You know, when I hear people say, “Well, there’s a lot of waste in this program,” well -- from my perspective at least, keeping teachers in the classroom is not wasteful; from my perspective, tax cuts to 95% of working families is not wasteful; from my perspective, providing all of you additional resources to rebuild roads and bridges and levees and dams that will enhance the quality of life of your state but also make it more economically competitive -- that’s not wasteful. And so, if we agree on 90% of this stuff, and we’re spending all our time on television arguing about 1, 2, 3 percent of the spending in this thing, and somehow it’s being characterized in broad brush as wasteful spending, that starts sounding more like politics. And that’s what right now we don’t have time to do. ...

What I don’t want us to do, though, is to just get caught up in the same old stuff that inhibits us from acting effectively and in concert. There’s going to be ample time for campaigns down the road. Right now, we’ve got to make sure that we’re standing up for the American people and putting them back to the work. All right?

The president also announced that the federal government was released $15 billion in Medicaid funds to the states on Wednesday so that ‘by the time most of you get home, money will be waiting to help 20 million vulnerable Americans in your states keep their healthcare coverage.’

Obama, on the eve of his first major address to Congress on Tuesday, named Vice President Joe Biden to oversee implementation of the recovery plan, detailed below.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 23, 2009

Vice President Biden to Oversee the Administration’s Implementation of the Recovery Act’s Provisions

President Obama Appoints Earl Devaney as Chair of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board

President Barack Obama announced Vice President Joe Biden will oversee the Administration’s implementation of the Recovery Act’s provisions and the appointment of Earl Devaney as Chair of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board in a meeting with the Nation’s Governors this morning. The Vice President will meet regularly with key members of the Cabinet, Governors and Mayors to make sure their efforts are speedy and effective.

He will also make regular, public reports to the President on implementation and those will be posted on The Chair of the Transparency and Accountability Board Earl Devaney will report to the Vice President.

“Beginning this week, Vice President Biden will meet regularly with key members of my cabinet to make sure our efforts are not just swift, but efficient and effective. He’ll also work closely with our nation’s Governors, and our Mayors, and everyone else involved in this effort, to keep things on track. The fact that I am asking the Vice President to personally lead this effort shows how important it is for our country and our future to get this right, and I thank him for his willingness to take on this critical task,” President Obama told a group of Governors this morning.

“I am also proud to announce the appointment of Earl Devaney as Chair of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. For nearly a decade as Inspector General at the Interior Department, Earl has doggedly pursued waste, fraud and mismanagement, and Joe and I can’t think of a more tenacious and efficient guardian of the hard-earned tax dollars the American people have entrusted us to wisely invest.”

As head of the Office of Inspector General, Earl Devaney is currently responsible for overseeing the administration of a nation wide, independent program of audits, evaluations, and investigations involving the Department of the Interiors programs and operations.

Mr. Devaney began his law enforcement career in 1968 as a police officer in his native state of Massachusetts. After graduating from Franklin and Marshall College in 1970 with a degree in Government, he became a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service.

At the time of his retirement from the Secret Service in 1991, Mr. Devaney was serving as the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Fraud Division and had become an internationally recognized white collar crime expert regularly sought by major media outlets. During his tenure with the Secret Service, Mr. Devaney was the recipient of five U.S. Department of Treasury Special Achievement Awards and numerous honors and awards from a wide variety of professional organizations.

Upon leaving the Secret Service, Mr. Devaney became the Director of the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, Mr. Devaney oversaw all of EPA’s criminal investigators, EPA’s Forensics Service Center, and the National Enforcement Training Institute. Mr. Devaney’s years of managerial excellence were recognized in 1998 by the prestigious Meritorious Presidential Rank Award for outstanding government service. ###