Friday, February 6, 2009

"Good News" (Heard Any Lately?)

Senate moderates worked to cut tens of billions of dollars from the economic stimulus bill in the hopes of clearing the way for passage Thursday as the government spit out grim new jobless figures and President Obama warned of more bad news to come. He said, "The time for talk is over. The time for action is now." He implored lawmakers in both parties to "rise to this moment" and send him legislation to begin fixing the worst economic crisis in decades.

President Obama added that he would "love to see additional improvements" in the bill, a gesture to the moderates from both parties at work on trying to trim the $920 billion price tag. But with the Senate plodding through a fourth day of debate, earlier talk of a large, bi-partisan vote for the legislation was fading. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said, "I've explained to people in that group, they cannot hold the president of the United States hostage. If they think they're going to rewrite this bill and Barack Obama is going to walk away from what he is trying to do for the American people, they've got another thought coming."

The Republicans countered that neither the president nor the Democratic congressional leaders have been willing to seek common ground on the first major bill of the new administration. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona and President Obama's opponent in the presidential campaign) said, "We're not having meaningful negotiations. It's a bad way to start." Further, in an Associated Press interview, Senator McCain said that President Obama "gave the Democrats the leeway to basically shut out Republicans, starting with the House and now here in the Senate, and I don't think that's good."

Senator McCain's penchant for working across party lines has irritated fellow Republicans in the past but, he was not taking part in bipartisan talks on trimming the stimulus bill. Nearly 20 senators from both parties met twice during the day and reviewed a list of possible cuts totaling nearly $80 billion dollars. They included the elimination of at least $40 billion in aid to the states, which have budget crises of their own, as well as $1.4 billion ticketed for the National Science Foundation.

There was no sign the group of self-appointed compromisers had agreed to support the reductions but, even if they had the numbers, they were far short of what some were looking for. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine, who met with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday) said, "The President made a strong case for a proposal that would be in the neighborhood of $800 billion."

The legislation is a blend of federal spending and tax cuts that supporters say can create or preserve at least 3 million jobs. They cite the tax cuts for lower-income workers, as well as more money for jobless benefits, worker training, food stamps, health care, education, and public works projects such as highways and mass transit.

Critics contend the bill is bloated with spending for items that won't create jobs, such as smoking prevention programs or efforts to combat a future pandemic flu outbreak. And, while the polls show President Obama is popular and the public supports recovery legislation, Republicans have maneuvered in the past several days to identify and ridicule relatively small items in the bill. (It seems that they've been watching Rush Limbaugh a little too much.)

Whatever the public relations battle, the Republicans have tried (so far, without success) to reduce spending in the measure and were ready with additional attempts during the day. The legislation is a key early test for President Obama, who has been in office just two weeks and has made economic recovery his top priority (which sets him apart from the last person to sit in his seat). President Obama's warnings have become increasingly dire and in remarks to employees at the Department of Energy, he said... "Today, we learned that last week the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. Tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the 2.6 million jobs that we lost last year. We've lost 500,000 jobs each month for the last two months." I keep asking myself is there any good news to be heard out there?

On the one hand, I applaud President Obama for telling people the truth and not telling people what they want to hear or in my case, need to hear... that everything is going to be alright, that somebody has more of a clue than I do and has the situation in hand. I have faith in our new President... I do. I just don't feel as hopeful about the future now of days. In 1982, the economic scenario of the nation was similar... jobs were being lost, unemployment was high, and I was just coming out of college and entering the work force. I watched as my fellow college graduates had to take all kinds of minimum wage jobs just to begin paying back those student loans. I imagine it's the same now or possibly worse. I imagine I was hopeful then because I was young and didn't know any better. I can't imagine any young college graduate now being as naive and unassuming as I was back then.

The "Great Communicator" Ronald Reagan was president then and he was able to tell Americans what they wanted to hear and make it all seem better. Maybe, there lies the real problem. We've had silver tongued, snake oil salesmen to sell us a bill of goods for so long that we haven't realized what was happening to us. And now, here we are... we've got a man in the White House who is telling us the truth... a truth we don't want to believe. I suppose it's time for us to be adults now and face the reality that there isn't going to be any good news coming for awhile.

Try to have a blessed weekend everyone.


A.Smith said...

There are a couple of things at play here.

1) It's a huge bill. Obama ran on bipartisanship and of course the GOP is going to try to show everytime they're left out in the cold. Now, the House rammed it through... that wasn't cool, but the Senate Dems are being a little more open to GOP suggestions.

2) We don't have $1T dollars. If we're going to spend that much money it needs to be in a way that will actually do us some good. $150M for a smoking prevention program, when we don't have $150M and that doesn't create jobs, is no good. There are a LOT of programs that, under current language, will be funded that don't create jobs. These are programs that would get funded anyway, just later during the normal appropriations season.

It may seem like the GOP is picking it apart to be difficult, but no one is saying don't put a stim. pkg through, they're saying let's make sure all this money we're borrowing is for a purpose and does what it's supposed to do.

That being said, McCain is a jerk and bitter his amendment didn't pass.

Keith said...

@A.Smith- Points Taken!

Toni said...

Getting here late Keith...As usual
you make good points and are very
informative. I have to agree with
A.Smith, that this is a huge bill and we have to make sure that we are not funding "pork"..that this huge amount of money is actually creating jobs and "stimulating" the

Angie B. said...

Our President is going to get a crash course in how Washington really works, just like Bill Clinton did. It's all about the compromise.

James Perkins said...

Damn good post Keith and very informative!

Simon Bastion said...

I certainly hope in this obsession Mr.Obama has with Bi-partisnism ,his package doesn't get compromised so much that it no longer looks like what he proposed.

Sunflower said...

Well Keith, you seem to have your basic facts straight..but as A. Smith so eloquently said..This is a
huge complicated package that has got to be looked over with discernment by all involved...This is a lot of money we are talking about here. I wish our new President the best of luck.

Lisa said...

Good Post Keith, I'm still trying to figure out what this stimulus package is all about. Thanks for clearing some of this up for me.

Political Sean said...

Heyyy Keith, Keep bangin it out over here baby!

Vanessa said...

I think a lot of Senators, both Democratic and Republican are trying to unload a lot of personal
programs ,ie-"Pork" on this bill and that is why it has ballooned in price so fast.

Halo said...

What's Up Keith? I've learned more about this from reading you and the Field Negro as well as Plez's blogs than I have from the Newspapers...Keep up the great journalistic work.

Grover Tha Playboy said...

Keep droppin dat science over here

Tate 2 said...

I'm frightened with how huge the amount of money is in this thing and fearful that even if passed, it still won't make a difference for people like me.

Arlene said...

Keith, What a heavy subject for a Friday!! But we can put off doing some hard work to help this economy. I think it's the situation as usual: How can the rich stay rich and the poor stay quiet? Stimulating an economy that values the rape of natural resources, the declaration of wars in foreign lands, and the rewarding of those who have done lousy jobs doesn't make sense. Why would any American want to use tax dollars to pay corporate heads who ruined companies millions of dollars? Some believe it is earned compensation. Who wouldn't want to make sure bridges and roads are in good condition? Who would stand against building schools and compensating teachers for their hard work when students learn? President Obama says that there are many things that stand ideologically between Dems and Repubs. He believes, and I wholeheartedly agree, that God's grace can fill in the spaces and we will one day truly treat our neighbors as ourselves.

Swaggie said...

I must admit...This is a very bleak
outlook...but I have faith in our new President..I'm hopeful for the future.

Jazzy said...

If this package truly generates jobs and stimulates the economy,then Obama will be able to write his ticket....If it doesn''ll just be politics as

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

guess u aint read my take on the stimulus and the 2 trilllion he wants to give banks ...shuuuhh aint releasing that till next week. i was mad after i read the 680 page bill how did u feel

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

I counteract all the bad news, predictions and comments with moments of gratitude for not having lost my job, etc. I really feel for those who are struggling.


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