WASHINGTON Vice President Joe Biden asserted in an interview Wednesday that taxpayers have gotten their money's worth out of the $787 billion stimulus program that Congress passed during the depths of the recession.

In an interview broadcast on CBS's The Early Show, Biden defended the program against accusations by Republicans critics that it hasn't been the job-manufacturing machine the administration promised to the American people.

He argued that money invested in both private and public-sector initiatives has saved as many as 2 million jobs, and said, I don't think they realize it. Biden said the program, now a year old, was designed to be implemented in two stages, saying we've only been halfway through the act.

Christina Romer, who heads the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a separate interview that one component of the stimulus program had worked especially well. State fiscal relief really has kept hundreds of thousands of teachers and firefighters and first responders on the job, she said.

We have seen productivity surge, Romer said on ABC's Good Morning America.

And that, at one level, is a good sign, she said.

The Obama administration has been feeling considerable political pressure of late, in part because of the stunning upset of its favored candidate in the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Earlier this week, a leading Senate Democratic moderate, Indiana's Evan Bayh, joined an increasing number of lawmakers who have announced they will be leaving Congress. This has come amid rising public anger over joblessness, high deficits and Washington partisanship.

Biden said we're in a situation here where if we do nothing about that cost curve in the last 10 years, health care costs have gone up 100 percent.

Gesturing with his hand, he said: Now, unless you bring that cost curve from going like this, down like this, we're in deep trouble.

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