During an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric on Tuesday, President Obama defended the administration’s handling of the economy: "nobody...anticipated that in the first three months, we would lose 700,000 jobs per month...the severity and the depth of the recession was something that, you know, really exceeded everybody's expectations."
However, on the February 6 Evening News, prior to the passage of the Obama stimulus package, correspondent Anthony Mason told Couric: "The size of the job losses last month surprised even most economists. And even if we begin to get a recovery later this year, many say the unemployment rate will continue to rise into next year, topping out somewhere north of 9 percent."
Obama made his claim after Couric asked about the current 9.5% unemployment rate: "Your administration projected that with the stimulus package, as you know, unemployment could be kept under 8%. Well, that was then, this is now." After Obama argued that the job loss "exceeded everybody’s expectations" Couric failed to point out the fact that she had reported on such expectations earlier in the year.
Here is a transcript of the exchange:
KATIE COURIC: Mr. President, if the stimulus plan isn't really working – at least for now – why should Americans sign off on spending billions of dollars on health care reform?
BARACK OBAMA: I disagree that the stimulus plan is not working. Think about what – where we've been, and since that time we have stabilized the financial markets. We have created the ability of businesses to borrow again. We have prevented thousands of layoffs in states all across the country. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Would things be much worse if we had not put the recovery package in place? Absolutely.
COURIC: Later outside, I asked the President about the current unemployment rate, which is at 9.5%. Your administration projected that with the stimulus package, as you know, unemployment could be kept under 8%.
COURIC: Well, that was then, this is now.
OBAMA: Yeah, we blew through that pretty quickly. And I think that, you know, in fairness to my economists, nobody – when we were first sworn in – anticipated that in the first three months, we would lose 700,000 jobs per month. So, you know, I think the severity and the depth of the recession was something that, you know, really exceeded everybody's expectations.
COURIC: Vice President Biden said you had, in fact, misread the economy, so-
OBAMA: Well, that's what he was referring to, was-
COURIC: Right. But who's to say you're reading the tea leaves accurately now?
OBAMA: Meaning what?
COURIC: In the future when you make these projections and estimates and cost savings. I mean, it's a pretty dicey proposition, don't you think, to predict economics into the future?
OBAMA: Well – well, if – if what you're saying is – is that economists are often wrong, you're absolutely right about that. And you know – but that can't be a rationale for inaction.