Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Job prospects

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.

EGYPT/USAEgyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.

Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.

“We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Words spoken five years ago by the man who will replace Gibbs in the White House press secretary job are being replayed on the Internet (in the never say never category).

Washington Extra – Obama takes the wheel

Second quarter GDP data gave us more evidence that the recovery is slowing, with the pace of consumer spending easing. True, business spending picked up, but analysts said cash-flush companies were merely making up for ground lost during the recession. There was a big rise in inventories too, a worrying sign if businesses have too much stock in warehouses and on shelves, and people just aren’t buying.

OBAMA/Outside Washington, Obama took his “recovery summer” campaign to car factories in Detroit, where he patted himself on the back for keeping the plants open and saving jobs. In what is sure to be a major theme in the run-up to the November elections, he riffed on the theme of Republicans as the “Party of No.”

“If some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening.  Just want to point that out, right?  I mean … this plant and your jobs might not exist,” the president said. “There were leaders of the “Just Say No” crowd in Washington. They were saying, ‘Oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure’… They don’t like admitting when I do the right thing.  But they might have had to admit it.” As Toby Zakaria observed in her blog today, “Probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that Mr. President.”

Health expenditure around the world

Health at a Glance 2009, a report by the OECD, shows that the United States spends more on healthcare than any other country.
Here are some figures on what leading economies spend on health care per capita, both in public and private schemes. The latest figures are from 2007 and are adjusted for purchasing power parity.
table.tableizer-table {border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;} .tableizer-table td {padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc;} .tableizer-table th {background-color: #104E8B; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold;} COUNTRY TOTAL PUBLIC PRIVATE HEALTH SPENDING
AS PCT OF GDP United States $7,290 $3,307 $3,982 16.00% Norway $4,763 $4,005 $758 8.90% Switzerland $4,417 $2,618 $1,799 10.80% Luxembourg * $4,162 $3,782 $380 7.30% Canada $3,895 $2,726 $1,169 10.10% Netherlands $3,837 $3,126 $711 9.80% Austria $3,763 $2,875 $888 10.10% France $3,601 $2,861 $739 11.00% Belgium $3,595 $2,701 $894 10.20% Germany $3,588 $2,758 $830 10.40% Denmark $3,512 $2,968 $545 9.80% Ireland $3,424 $2,762 $661 7.60% Sweden $3,323 $2,716 $607 9.10% Iceland $3,319 $2,739 $580 9.30% Australia (2006/7) $3,137 $2,124 $1,012 8.70% United Kingdom $2,992 $2,446 $547 8.40% OECD Average $2,984 $2,193 $791 8.90% Finland $2,840 $2,120 $720 8.20% Greece $2,727 $1,646 $1,081 9.60% Italy $2,686 $2,056 $630 8.70% Spain $2,671 $1,917 $753 8.50% Japan (2006) $2,581 $2,097 $484 8.10% New Zealand $2,510 $2,010 $500 9.20% Portugal (2006) $2,150 $1,538 $612 9.90% Korea $1,688 $927 $761 6.80% Czech Republic $1,626 $1,385 $241 6.80% Slovak Republic $1,555 $1,040 $516 7.70% Hungary $1,388 $980 $408 7.40% Poland $1,035 $733 $302 6.40% Mexico $823 $372 $451 5.90% Turkey (2005) $618 $441 $177 5.70%

* Health expenditure is for the insured population rather than resident population.
Sources: Reuters/OECD Health Data 2009.

The First Draft: Return from Dover

President Barack Obama returned in the early hours from a trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where he saluted the flag-draped caskets of 18 soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in Afghanistan this week. OBAMA/

Journalists were allowed to see the transfer of the last casket. Reuters correspondent Ross Colvin was there and reports that it was cold and blustery as Obama stood at attention and saluted as six soldiers carried the casket, bearing the body of Sergeant Dale Griffin of Indiana, off the plane and onto a waiting van.

With at least 53 killed, October has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and public opinion polls show increasing weariness of the war.

First Draft: Spinning

WASHINGTON – Lots of spinning going on.

Morning TV shows had footage of a spinning shark twirling out of the water and a spinning small plane blown about by the wind upon landing. And sports fans looking forward to the spinning football at Sunday’s Super Bowl.

NBC touting a live interview with President Barack Obama at about 5 p.m. EST before kick-off on Sunday.USA-POLITICS/OBAMA

Obama saying Wall Street taking bonuses while firms are being bailed out by taxpayer money is “the height of irresponsibility” and “shameful” is still making the rounds.

Pennsylvania Democratic voters see U.S. recession already

rtr1z301.jpgWASHINGTON – One interesting tidbit that came out of the exit polling from Pennsylvania Democratic voters is that a large majority believe the U.S. economy is already in recession — contrary what the current president said on Tuesday.
A whopping 88 percent of voters in Pennsylvania — a state trying to transition from steel and coal industries to high-tech and medical research — said the U.S. economy was in a recession, with 42 percent saying it was a serious recession and 47 percent said it was a moderate contraction, according to exit poll data on CNN’s Web site (page 5 of data).
On Tuesday, President George W. Bush cited the most recent economic data showing small growth in the fourth quarter of 2007. But he also acknowledged that the first quarter figures had not yet been released.
“We’re not in a recession.  We’re in a slowdown,” Bush said after meetings with leaders of Canada and Mexico. “We haven’t had first quarter growth statistics yet. But there’s no question we’re in a slowdown.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both said the economy was in a recession as has Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain.
But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Wednesday such pronouncements were a little early in the game. 
“We don’t have data yet and it’s a little premature to declare it so definitively as a recession because the data isn’t in,” she told reporters.
The Commerce Department is due to release the GDP figures for the first quarter on April 30, which is also when the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate-setting committee will announce whether it is cutting rates again. 

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- Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (shoppers browse food aisles at discount retailer Wal-mart.)