Joined: 28 March 2006
Joined: 01 January 2006
WASHINGTON ' At least Route 31 is a road to somewhere. President Barack Obama had it both ways when he promoted his stimulus plan in Indiana and later at a prime-time news conference. He bragged in Indiana about getting Congress to produce a package with no pork, yet boasted it will do good things for a Hoosier highway and a downtown overpass, just the kind of local projects lawmakers lard into big spending bills.
Obama's sales pitch on the enormous package he wants Congress to make law has sizzle as well as steak. He's projecting job creation numbers that may be impossible to verify and glossing over some ethical problems that bedeviled his team.
In recent years, the so-called Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska came to symbolize the worst excesses of congressional earmarks, a device that allows a member of Congress to add money for local projects in legislation, practically under the radar.
Nothing so bold, or specific, as that now-discarded bridge project is contained in the stimulus package. That's not to say the package steers clear of waste or parochial interests. Obama played to such interests Monday, speaking at one point as if he'd come to fill potholes.
A look at some of Obama's claims in Elkhart, Ind., and the news conference called to make his case to the largest possible audience:
OBAMA: "Not a single pet project," he told the news conference. "Not a single earmark."
THE FACTS: There are no "earmarks," as they are usually defined, inserted by lawmakers in the bill. Still, some of the projects bear the prime characteristics of pork ' tailored to benefit specific interests or to have thinly disguised links to local projects.
For example, the latest version contains $2 billion for a clean-coal power plant with specifications matching one in Mattoon, Ill., $10 million for urban canals, $2 billion for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrid cars, and $255 million for a polar icebreaker and other "priority procurements" by the Coast Guard.
Obama told his Elkhart audience that Indiana will benefit from work on "roads like U.S. 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on." He added, "And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart."
U.S. 31 is a north-south highway serving South Bend, 15 miles from Elkhart in the northern part of the state.
OBAMA: "My bottom line is, are we creating 4 million jobs?" he told the news conference.
He said in Indiana, "The plan that we've put forward will save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs over the next two years."
THE FACTS: Job creation projections are uncertain even in stable times, and some of the economists relied on by Obama in making his forecast acknowledge a great deal of uncertainty in their numbers.
The president's own economists, in a report prepared last month, stated, "It should be understood that that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error."
Beyond that, it's unlikely the nation will ever know how many jobs are saved as a result of the stimulus. While it's clear when jobs are abolished, there's no economic gauge that tracks job preservation.
___OBAMA: "They'll be jobs building the wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars that will lower our dependence on foreign oil and modernizing our costly health care system that will save us billions of dollars and countless lives." THE FACTS: The economic stimulus bill would allocate about $20 billion to help hospitals and doctors transition from paper charts to electronic health records for their patients. Research has shown that in some instances, electronic record keeping can eliminate inappropriate services and improve care, but it's not a sure thing by any means. "By itself, the adoption of more health IT is generally not sufficient to produce significant cost savings," the Congressional Budget Office reported last year. ___ OBAMA: "I've appointed hundreds of people, all of whom are outstanding Americans who are doing a great job. There are a couple who had problems before they came into my administration, in terms of their taxes. ... I made a mistake. ... I don't want to send the signal that there are two sets of rules." THE FACTS: Two of his appointees, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle for health and human services secretary and Nancy Killefer as Obama's chief compliance officer, dropped out after reports they had not paid a portion of their taxes. Obama previously acknowledged he "screwed up" in making it seem to Americans that there is one set of tax compliance rules for VIPs and another set for everyone else. Yet his choice for treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, achieved the post despite having belatedly paid $34,000 to the IRS, an agency Geithner now oversees. That could leave the perception that there is one set of rules for Geithner and another set for everyone else. ___ OBAMA: "We also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression." THE FACTS: This could turn out to be the case. But as bad as the economic numbers are, the unemployment figures have not reached the levels of the early 1980s, let alone the 1930s ' yet. A total of 598,000 payroll jobs vanished in January ' the most in nearly 35 years ' and the unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 from 7.2 percent the month before. The most recent high was 7.8 percent in June 1992.
And the jobless rate was 10.8 percent in November and December 1982. Unemployment in the Great Depression ranged for several years from 25 percent to close to 30 percent.
Joined: 19 June 2007
Joined: 30 December 2008
Joined: 30 December 2008
Joined: 30 December 2008
Joined: 01 January 2006
Joined: 01 January 2006
NEW YORK – Investors are frustrated with the government's latest bank bailout plan — and showing it by unloading stocks.
The major stock indexes fell more than 4 percent Tuesday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which tumbled 382 points. Financial stocks led the market lower, a sign of how concerned Wall Street is about the government's ability to restore the health of the banking industry.
Traders and investors said the lack of specifics from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on how the government will direct more than $1 trillion in public and private support was troubling.
The plan is aimed at restoring proper functioning to credit markets, which seized up over worries about bad debt after the September bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The latest plan calls for a government-private sector partnership to help remove banks' soured assets from their books. It would also boost an effort to unclog the credit markets that govern loans to consumers and businesses.
"The good news is they are going to spend a trillion dollars, the bad news is they don't know how," said James Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group.
"They built this up as being a panacea," he said. "There was so much hope pinned on them to do a good job. The expectations have been so high. It's hard to live up to."
Investors also questioned whether this plan, which followed previous efforts in the final months of 2008, would work. Some selling was to be expected, however, as stocks rose sharply last week ahead of the announcement.
Geithner's speech "basically puts a spotlight on the fact that the government has no idea how to fix the problem," said Jeff Buetow, senior portfolio manager at Portfolio Management Consultants. "People bought on rumor and hope, and now they're selling on reality."
Investors focused on the financial rescue showed little reaction to the Senate's approval of its $838 billion economic stimulus package. The bill must now be reconciled with an $819 billion version passed by the House. Congressional leaders hope to have the bill on President Barack Obama's desk before a recess next week.
"The economy is in deep trouble. The stimulus plan is not very stimulative. It's not addressing the real problem," Buetow said. "We have an insolvent financial system. The government is trying to find a comprehensive way to save it. They can't afford to just throw money at it. That's what they tried to do in the fall and that clearly did not work."
Stocks extended their slide after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn't elaborate on the plan in testimony at a House Financial Services Committee hearing. Instead, Bernanke said the programs designed to revive the credit markets are showing promise and that any fix to the worst financial crisis since the 1930s would take time to work.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow industrials fell 381.99, or 4.62 percent, to 7,888.88. It was the lowest close since Nov. 20, when the blue chips finished at their lowest level since March 2003.
Broader stock indicators also tumbled. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 42.73, or 4.91 percent, to 827.16, and the Nasdaq fell 66.83, or 4.20 percent, to 1,524.73.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 22.17, or 4.74 percent, to 445.77.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 6 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.76 billion shares.
Bond prices jumped as investors sought the safety of government debt. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.83 percent from 2.99 percent late Monday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, slipped to 0.31 percent from 0.32 percent late Monday.
The dollar rose against other major currencies. Gold prices also rose.Light, sweet crude fell $2.01 to settle at $37.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments, said the government's plan doesn't resolve the question of how much the troubled assets weighing down banks' books are worth. By providing funds to purchase the assets or by buying them outright the government risks hurting banks by paying too little or hurting tax payers by paying too much. "Valuation is the fundamental issue," Jankovskis said. Scott Valentin, an analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. said the government might be playing politics by not proposing measures that would touch off great debate in Washington and meet with public approval. A government takeover of a bank, for example, wouldn't be politically palatable, he said. "There are some people that believe the government is dancing around the issue of what has to be done and what is politically acceptable," he said. Valentin also said some of the drop in stocks could be hastened by short sellers — investors who place bets that a stock will fall. Short sellers last week snapped up shares of financial stocks to cover their bets in case Geithner's announcement sent stocks higher. Now, those investors can put their pessimistic bets back in place. This can weigh on the price of a stock and exacerbate selling. Investors are simply left with many questions. "I think generally we just don't know enough. We just don't know enough of what it all means," said Jon Biele, head of capital markets at Cowen & Co. "It's digestion time." Most other news only added to investors' worries. The government reported that wholesalers cut back on their inventories in December by the largest amount in 16 years. The reduction means wholesalers ordered fewer new goods, leading to reduced production and potentially more job losses. The Commerce Department said wholesale inventories plunged by 1.4 percent, nearly double analysts' expectations of 0.8 percent. It also was the fourth straight monthly decline. Bank stocks saw the biggest selling. Bank of America Corp. fell $1.33, or 19.3 percent, to $5.56, while Wells Fargo & Co. fell $2.71, or 14.2 percent, to $16.35. Regional banks also showed big drops. Fifth Third Bancorp fell 70 cents, or 24 percent, to $2.19, while Huntington Bancshares Inc. fell 65 cents, or 25 percent, to $1.96. Conglomerate General Electric Co., which has a big finance arm and often trades like a bank stock, fell $1.02, or 8.1 percent, to $11.62. Principal Financial Group Inc. fell $5.04, or 30 percent, to $11.99 after the insurer posted a fourth-quarter loss on investment and loan losses. The company's report raised fears that the company will be forced to raise cash. More downbeat corporate news served as unnecessary reminders of just how bad the economic situation remains. Alcoa Inc. fell 85 cents, or 10 percent, to $7.65 after a ratings agency slashed the aluminum producer's corporate credit rating. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it expected the company's credit metrics to deteriorate significantly this year. General Motors Corp. said it will cut 10,000 salaried jobs in 2009, as part of the restructuring plan the company submitted to Congress late last year. GM fell 13 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $2.70. Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 2.19 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 3.46 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 3.64 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.29 percent. ___ On the Net: New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com
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