Romney, speaking before about 200 people at the Hotel Des Moines Tuesday called the $787 billion economic stimulus package "the biggest, most careless one-time expenditure by the federal government in history."
To make things worse, he said, "the stimulus wasn't just wasted -- it was borrowed and wasted. We still owe the money. We're still paying interest on it and it will be that way long after this president's out of office."
Romney likened the soaring federal debt to a prairie fire and pledged to "lead us out of this debt and spending inferno" if elected. He estimated the amount of debt added during the Obama administration amounts to $520,000 per household.
"America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public- sector, gave billions of dollars to the companies of his friends and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined," Romney said.
"The consequence is that we are enduring the most tepid recovery in modern history."
White House spokesman Jay Carney took issue with Romney's remarks.
"It seems to me the governor -- former governor neglected to mention is that the greatest contributor to our deficit right now was the profligate spending by the previous administration, two unpaid-for massive tax cuts that benefited primarily the wealthiest Americans that Governor Romney supported, two unpaid-for wars that Governor Romney has said he should -- we should still be engaged in, that we should not have ended the war in Iraq, for example, as the president did, that we should not have a timetable for ending the war in Afghanistan, as President Obama has, as well as other measures," Carney said.
"Don't forget that when the last Democratic president left office in January 2001, there were surpluses, budget surpluses as far as the eye could see, after eight years, not only were there massive deficits that this president inherited, there was an economic catastrophe unfolding in this country and around the globe."
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has credited the stimulus package, enacted in 2009, with lowering unemployment by millions of jobs.