Wednesday Headlines: Stimulus Act Turns 1; Obama to Create Debt Panel
One year and $787 billion later, Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus.
To highlight the occasion, the Obama administration is gearing up for a public relations blitz to tout the bill’s achievements. As part of the push, Vice President Joe Biden is set to issue a progress report to the president, in which he writes, “One year after the passage of the Act, we can report that approximately 2 million jobs have been created or saved thanks to the Act’s impact on hiring in the private sector, by local and state governments and by non-profits.”
However, results of the stimulus remain unsettled. As NPR reports:
“The economy is working again. But millions of Americans are not. The mixed track record of the stimulus has shaken confidence in the Obama administration, even as the president pushes for additional jobs measures.”
Writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times:
“The reasons for the stimulus’s middling popularity aren’t a mystery. The unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, and many families are struggling. Saying that things could have been even worse doesn’t exactly inspire. Liberals don’t like the stimulus because they wish it were bigger. Republicans don’t like it because it’s a Democratic program. The Obama administration hurt the bill’s popularity by making too rosy an economic forecast upon taking office.”
About a third of the $787 billion stimulus package has been spent. ProPublica breaks down how the money has been doled out here. In several cases, funds are going to programs the administration is seeking to eliminate or trim in its new budget.
So far, the bulk of stimulus dollars has gone to pay for social services, government jobs and to provide tax cuts for workers. In the next 12 months, though, the pace and direction of stimulus spending are due for big change.
“Infrastructure spending is set to step up in the second year of the stimulus program, which should mean more money flowing to private-sector employers. Still, economists say that won’t likely have a big effect on the unemployment rate, which most say is likely to continue a slow decline as the broader economy recovers.”
And, as Politico surmises, “With gridlock in Washington showing few signs of loosening up in this election year…the massive spending bill may yet come to define the first half” of President Barack Obama’s first term.
Despite some Republican resistance, President Obama is moving ahead with plans to establish a bipartisan commission to deal with the nation’s debt. On Wednesday, the president is expected to issue an executive order creating the panel. According to reports, he will name Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a former whip for the G.O.P. in the Senate, to co-chair the commission.
The highest-ranking American official to visit Syria in five years held talks Wednesday with the Syrian President Bashar Assad. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns released a statement saying his meeting with Assad was open and productive.
The meeting comes a day after President Obama nominated career diplomat Robert Ford to be the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in five years. The United States withdrew its ambassador to Damascus in 2005 following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but officials now hope renewed ties with Syria could help jumpstart the Middle East peace push.
Toyota’s headaches keep getting worse as the carmaker is now considering a recall of its top-selling Corolla because of new worries over the vehicle’s power steering system. The company also announced that its president, Akio Toyoda, won’t travel to Washington later this month to testify on Capitol Hill. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports it’s because America and Japan approach corporate crises far differently.