Tales from the Trail

Treasury’s guide on how to spend 12 zeros after the 1

A trillion dollars is a million million dollars or 12 zeros after the one.

And that’s how much apparently every program costs to save the U.S. economy these days.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined what he called “a new financial stability plan” to help restart the flow of credit, strengthen banks, and  “provide critical aid for homeowners and for small businesses.” FINANCIAL/BAILOUT

His proposal included a program in which the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the private sector would establish a fund, using government financing, to deal with bad assets weighing on financial firms.

“We believe this program should ultimately provide up to $1 trillion in financing capacity, but we plan to start it on a scale of about $500 billion, and we will expand it based on what works,” Geithner said.

Another piece of his plan would commit up to $1 trillion (there’s that number again) to support consumer and business lending with the Treasury and Federal Reserve working together to “kick-start the secondary lending markets.”

First draft: Spin after the news conference

OBAMA/White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning television talk shows today to reiterate what his boss said last night in his first presidential news conference: Congress must pass an economic stimulus package to help avoid dire consequences.

Gibbs said on NBC’s “Today Show” that Obama was willing to “do whatever it takes, with Democrats or Republicans to make sure that he gets something on his desk quickly that gets help to the hands of the American people.”

Obama continues his road show today, traveling to Florida where he is expected to focus heavily on the home foreclosure crisis that’s hit the United States — particularly hard in Ft. Myers, Florida .

First draft: Back on the trail again

Just three weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama heads back out on the campaign trail today. This time he’s going to a hard-hit part of Indiana where unemployment has soared, to try to build support for an $800 billion economic stimulus package.USA-OBAMA/

Obama, who excelled in the presidential campaign at ramping up support at rallies through emotional speeches, will be holding a town-hall type meeting in Elkhart, Indiana — where unemployment has jumped to 15.3 percent from 4.7 percent over the past year.

The Obama administration is focusing all its effort on getting lawmakers to approve the economic stimulus plan. In fact, yesterday the Treasury Department announced it would delay the announcement of a separate, keenly awaited bank rescue plan by a day until Tuesday so the focus could stay on the stimulus package on Monday.

With less than 70 minutes to spare…

U.S. Senate Democrats had less than 70 minutes to spare when they finally filed the paperwork on Saturday for the compromise they reached with a handful of Republicans for the $827 billion economic stimulus package, setting up a vote for early next week.

USA/Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had hoped to file the specific language much earlier on Saturday but drafting took significantly longer. The compromise measure, some 778 pages long, was brokered by Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson.

With the paperwork filed, that will set a vote for 5:30 p.m. EST on Monday to wrap up debate on the stimulus package. If there are 60 votes, the Senate will vote on passing the legislation on Tuesday

‘Restless soul’ Obama feeling cooped up at White House

He’s lived in the place for less than three weeks, but U.S. President Barack Obama is already feeling the constraints of the White House.
 
USA-OBAMA/After announcing a busy travel schedule for the president next week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked if Obama was feeling cooped up at the executive mansion.
 
“It’s safe to say,” Gibbs said.
 
“Look, you know, some of you have covered him and some of you haven’t, but he’s a bit of a restless soul.  His idea of a crazy day is to take a long walk.”
 
Asked where Obama liked to walk, Gibbs said “in solitude and isolation.”
 
The president may get a little solitude and isolation on Saturday. He’s headed to the Camp David presidential retreat with his family.
 
After that he hits the road to push Congress to pass an economic stimulus package. He’s in Indiana on Monday, Florida on Tuesday and Illinois on Thursday.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama walks to Marine One at White House Thursday evening)

First Draft: no break

It’s Friday, but no break from dismal economic news.

The employment report showed a whopping 598,000 decline in jobs in January, the most severe slashing in 34 years. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 percent to its highest level in more than 16 years.

The latest economic data shock gives more ammunition to President Barack Obama as he tries to sell reluctant Republicans on the economic stimulus package.OBAMA/

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Republican, said on NBC’s “Today” show that Obama should be careful in how he handles the stimulus legislation or he risks being seen as more of a Jimmy Carter than a Ronald Reagan.

Impatient Obama sharpens tone on ‘failed’ Republican tax ideas

Bipartisanship may be about to take a back seat to political reality in Washington.
 
President Barack Obama sharpened his rhetoric Thursday as he pushed the U.S. Senate to pass his nearly $900 billion economic stimulus bill, hammering Republican complaints that the measure doesn’t have enough tax cuts.
OBAMA/ 
The Republican push is “rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems, that government doesn’t have a role to play, that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough, that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges,” Obama told an audience of Energy Department staffers.
 
“So let me be clear: Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed. They’ve taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over $1 trillion. And they’ve brought our economy to a halt,” he said.
 
“Time for talk is over,” Obama said. “The time for action is now.”
 
The president’s shift in rhetorical tone came amid press criticism that the White House has let Republicans win the communications battle over his stimulus plan by characterizing it as wasteful and excessive.
 
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs rejected the notion that Obama was backing away from his pledge of bipartisanship, noting the president hosted moderate Republicans Wednesday at the White House.
 
But asked if it was unfair to characterize Obama’s remarks as showing signs of impatience, Gibbs said: “I mean, I think when he said the time to talk is over, I think it’s fair to read impatience into that.”
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama speaks at Energy Department Thursday)

The First Draft: roller coasters

JAPAN/All eyes will be on Capitol Hill today as the Senate moves closer to a vote on the massive $900 billion stimulus bill. Lawmakers added expanded help for home buyers late last night in a bid to attract much-needed Republican support, but it’s still unclear whether Democrats have enough votes to pass the measure.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, President Barack Obama urged Congress not to strip out ambitious efforts to upgrade schools, boost energy effiency and upgrade crumbling bridges and highways.

Voters “have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide,” Obama wrote.

First Draft: rough patch

The first presidential apology — “I screwed up”  — making the rounds today.

Apparently President Barack Obama does not subscribe to the rules of Gibbs in the TV drama NCIS (not to be confused with the White House spokesman also named Gibbs) who drills into his minions that saying you’re sorry is a sign of weakness.

The Daschle drama is over and there appears to be a certain sense of relief that the former health secretary nominee’s tax tribulations are not going to dominate the news for much longer.

Obama: 4 years to improve economy until voters judge

President Barack Obama says he’s got four years to re-energize the U.S. economy before voters pass judgment and decide whether his will be a one-term presidency or a re-election.

But the new U.S. leader said he welcomes the challenge of being held accountable for his actions in office.

“Look, I’m at the start of my administration.  One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable.  You know, I’ve got four years,” Obama said in an interview with NBC.