Monday’s Headlines: Obama to Propose Help for Middle Class Families

BY Jason M. Breslow  January 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM EST

President Barack Obama will use the State of the Union address this Wednesday to propose a series of initiatives aimed at helping middle class families, the New York Times reports. Among the proposals the president is expected to lay out: tax credits for child care, caps on some student loan payments, aid to help families care for elderly relatives, a requirement that companies automatically allow employees to save for retirement and tax credits for retirement savings.

“By focusing on what one White House official calls ‘the sandwich generation’ — struggling families squeezed between sending their children to college and caring for elderly parents — Mr. Obama hopes to use his speech on Wednesday to demonstrate that he understands the economic pain of ordinary Americans,” the New York Times reports.

*

After a stinging setback in last week’s Massachusetts Senate race, the White House is zeroing in on several elements of health care reform it hopes can survive new talks in Congress. According to the Wall Street Journal, the administration is focusing on measures to extend the life of Medicare, cheaper prescription drugs for seniors and a cap on consumers’ out-of-pocket medical expenses.

*

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned it would be “very troubling” to the financial markets if the Senate were to reject Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. In an interview with Politico, Geithner said the administration is “very confident” the embattled Fed chairman will be reconfirmed “and we think it’s very important he be reconfirmed.”

*

The death toll continues to climb in Haiti. More than 150,000 bodies have been buried in mass graves by the Haitian government, an official said Sunday.

The NewsHour’s Ray Suarez is in Haiti and filed this video report from Port-au-Prince yesterday. He says two stories are emerging from Haiti in the wake of this month’s horrific earthquake. “One is a story of resilience, adaptation, willingness to strive and struggle against tremendous, tremendous privation,” while the other is the “heartbreaking ongoing story of a country coming to terms” with massive death.

*

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said President Obama’s plan to send an additional 30,000 soldiers to the country may eventually give way to peace talks with the Taliban.

“As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there’s been enough fighting,” McChrystal told the Financial Times ahead of this week’s international conference in London about the future of Afghanistan. “What I think we do is try to shape conditions which allow people to come to a truly equitable solution to how the Afghan people are governed.”

*

An Ethiopian Airlines flight with 90 people on board crashed into the Mediterranean Sea early Monday shortly after taking off from Beirut, Lebanon, in stormy weather. The plane was bound for Adis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia. The BBC has video of the search and rescue operations here.