Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's latest lame excuse for its failed stimulus-spending plan is that it underestimated the severity of the recession.

"We misread how bad the economy was," Vice President Joseph Biden said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

The White House has been coming up with a lot of half-baked reasons why the president's massive $800 billion plan has not made a dent in the mushrooming unemployment rate, but this one was a beaut.

Misread? Throughout his presidential campaign and the early months of his presidency, Obama repeatedly compared the recession to the Great Depression when one-third of the workforce was unemployed. Even his economic advisers have since said that such a comparison to a decade-long depression is preposterous. But Obama kept comparing it to the worst economic catastrophe in modern American history -- if anything, exaggerating the recession, not underestimating it.

Biden, speaking for the administration, said it was unfair to say that the stimulus has been a failure, because "no one anticipated, no one expected that the recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having distributed the bulk of the money."

But not too long ago, the White House was predicting that the stimulus plan would soon be creating or preserving (which no one can verify with any accuracy) hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Then, when polls began showing increased public doubts that the plan was working, the administration said that it would begin "ramping up" the snail's-pace stimulus spending over the next 100 days.

Now Biden is saying that the plan is going to take more time than anticipated because so many of the contracts for construction and other public-works projects have only recently been completed or were still in the pipeline.

Critics of spending-stimulus programs warned of such delays last year when Obama was selling his idea to the nation, and later when it was about to be sent Congress. Even the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, projected that the lion's share of the money would not be spent until 2010 when many economists said the recession would be over.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.