U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner criticized Republicans for focusing too much on cutting spending and taxes and not doing enough to support economic growth.
In a speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Geithner said the challenges facing the U.S. economy can "only be addressed by government action." Government must invest in education, build roads and infrastructure and help support job growth, he said.
Geithner also disputed GOP criticism that the Obama administration has imposed too much regulation on business.
"A growth strategy for the American economy requires more than promises to cut taxes and spending," Geithner said in prepared remarks to the Economic Club of Chicago. "We have to be willing to do things, not just cut things."
His remarks were made one day after President Barack Obama ramped up his attacks on GOP budget proposals and Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.
Obama said the proposals are "thinly veiled social Darwinism" and represent a "radical vision." Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., spearheaded the proposals, which call for deep cuts to Medicare and other programs, and for tax cuts that favor wealthy Americans.
On Tuesday, Romney said this fall's election will be a "basic choice" between what he called Obama's "government-centered society" and the "opportunity society" he says he would pursue as president. The former Massachusetts governor won three primaries Tuesday, adding to his lead in the GOP primary race.
Many business executives and Republican politicians have argued for months that new rules for the financial sector, health care reform, and environmental regulations have hurt the economy. That has hamstrung businesses and held back hiring, they argue.
Geithner said that business profits are higher than before the 2008 financial crisis and have rebounded more quickly than overall growth and employment. He argued that the U.S. business environment is better than in most US competitors'.
He also said that new regulations were "absolutely necessary to protect the economy from the risks that caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."
Geithner spoke to an audience that included Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who won that post after serving as Obama's chief of staff.
"The challenges facing the American economy today are not primarily about the vibrancy or efficiency of the business community," Geithner added. "They are about the barriers to economic opportunity and economic security for many Americans....These challenges can only be addressed by government action."
AP Writer Jason Keyser contributed to this report from Chicago.