Clem’s Chronicles: Stimulus Bill Signed/Foreclosure Help on the Horizon/Automakers passing a larger hat

By Tom Johnson

Feb 17, 2009 9:22pm

Lot of stuff tonight…..big day for homeowners tomorrow……

STIMULUS BILL SIGNED-"Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles…but today does mark the beginning of the end". So said President Obama before he signed the massive $787 billion economic stimulus bill in a ceremony at the Denver Nature and Science Museum. It didn’t take long to see the money (ostensibly) used. Jake Tapper, reporting on WORLD NEWS, told us of a project in Central Missouri: "near Lake Ozark today construction began on the Tuscumbia River Bridge that state officials called the first stimulus project…directly and indirectly creating 245 jobs." All told "Democrats on Capitol Hill say the Show-me state will ultimately see $830 million infrastructure dollars", Tapper adds. The key word there is ultimately-Tapper tells us Missouri’s money and other states’ shares are "anticipated…the checks have not yet been cut." Tapper explains the process: "Thursday federal agencies will begin telling states how much they have coming..Within the next two weeks-that money can be transferred to the states."
And where does it go from there? David Muir reported from Hoboken, New Jersey for WORLD NEWS, where city officials are hopeful that a decades-old flooding problem can be fixed as part of that money. Muir tells us "engineers have already drawn up plans for major pumps that fix the problem. The cost? $36 million." The mayor of Hoboken told Muir that "we would hire hundreds of people immediately." Sounds like a no-brainer right? Unfortunately, Muir reminds just how many "Hoboken Projects" are out there- "Here and across the country…a flood of requests from cities in need of help and workers in need of jobs."

MISTER MARKET DOESN’T LOOK STIMULATED AT ALL-Somebody needs to turn that frown upside-down! The Dow Jones industrial average fell 297 points to 7,552, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index skidded 37 to 789 and the Nasdaq composite index fell 63 to 1,470. That Dow Jones number is the lowest since November 20, 2008. Charlie Herman summed up the day pretty well: " On the same day that the new president signed a $787 billion stimulus package, that two of the nation’s three struggling auto companies presented plans to the government outlining how they will be viable companies thanks to taxpayer backing, a day before the president announces a plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure (see note below), and a week after the announcement of a revised program to fix the nation’s financial sector, investors are not impressed."

AUTOMAKERS-Remember that plant in "Little Shop of Horrors" that kept shouting "Feed Me Seymour"? Well excuse me for thinking about that insatiable beast when listening to Chrysler and General Motors ask for even more money today from the Federal Government. Yesterday, the sense was GM needed $4 billion, Chrysler maybe $3 billion to stay afloat while their financial houses and future plans were looked over by the federal government. We saw their progress plans today and as Chris Bury reported from Detroit for WORLD NEWS "For General Motors and Chrysler these plans come with urgent new requests for $17 billion in additional bailout money. And that is hardly encouraging." The automakers’ plans include: dropping models or in some cases shedding entire brands, continued layoffs, UAW concessions, plant closures and in Chrysler’s case Bury tells us "partnering with Fiat to sell more cars overseas." Selling more cars-Bury tells us that’s the tonic: "None of (the automakers’ cost-cutting moves) matters if dismal car sales don’t pick up." And there’s still optimism emanating from Detroit-Bury tells us "GM, at least believes it can turn a profit and begin paying back the money in two years. The President has until March 31st to buy the automakers’ arguments…or force them into bankruptcy."

WEDNESDAY IS NOT PRINCE SPAGHETTI DAY/IT’S FORECLOSURE HELP DAY-Tomorrow President Obama unveils another large piece of his recovery plan. This time the focus is on foreclosures. The President will unveil a $50 billion plan to help stem foreclosures. The location for the announcement? Arizona, one of the states hardest hit by mortgage defaults. The President speaks at a Mesa, Arizona high school at 12:15pm ET. Jake Tapper filed the following 411 earlier this evening: "A Democrat familiar with President Obama’s plan to stem the tide of home foreclosures tells ABC NEWS that tomorrow the president will announce a plan that:
* will help responsible homeowners afford their mortgage payments;
* will enable millions of Americans to refinance or modify their
mortgages to get their monthly payments down, giving them much needed relief in this time of economic distress and preventing millions of
avoidable foreclosures;
* will encourage servicers and lenders to do the right thing and give relief to struggling homeowners;
* will reward people for playing by the rules.

SEN. BURRIS-So much for fading into the Senate woodwork. U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged trying to raise money for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich before being appointed to the Senate. Previously, Burris testified to a committee that recommended impeaching the governor that he had told only one Blagojevich associate he was interested in being senator and never offered anything in return. But he released an affidavit over the weekend indicating he had spoken to four others, and that he was asked for fundraising help. So which is it Senator? George Stephanopoulos tells us "the Senate Ethics Committee has opened an inquiry into these seemingly conflicting statements." On WORLD NEWS, Stephanopoulos told Diane Sawyer that "more problematic for the Senator, the Republican state attorney in Illinois is reviewing the case for possible perjury charges." There’s more: "the real problem is political.  He is now guaranteed to have a serious primary rival when he runs for the Senate seat in 2010." For his part, Burris says bring it on.  "I have nothing to hide … I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies to answer any questions they have," he said. "There were never any inappropriate (contacts) between me and anyone else … and I will answer any and all questions to get that point across to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois. "

POSTMASTER GENERAL/HEY CONGRESS, EVEN YOUR SUMMER HOUSE IS A GLASS HOUSE?-You know after accusing Congress for living in a glass house regarding Congressional (mis)use of private aircraft yesterday, Jon Karl notes another "do as I say" example. This time it has to do with our postal service. The Post Office lost nearly $3 billion last year and guess what? The boss man got himself a raise! Jon Karl, filing for WORLD NEWS, reports that "just last month Postmaster General John Potter told Congress last month he might be forced to cutback to five day-a-week mail delivery." Tough times? Not for Mr. Potter. Karl: "Potter’s base salary went from $186 thousand in 2007 to more than $260 thousand last year…on top of that, a "performance" bonus of $135K…add in retirement benefits and other perks, total compensation was more than $850 thousand." DUDE……Karl says Mr. Potter declined a request for an interview. He also says that one reason for the big raise is that "Congress authorized it as a way for the Post Office to recruit and retain top executives. That’s exactly what Congress has blasted Wall Street for doing."

AFGHANISTAN TROOPS-President Barack Obama says he’s sending additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan to battle insurgent threats and crumbling security along the Pakistan border. Obama has approved a Pentagon request to deploy Marines and Army troops to the region. Officials say an estimated 17,000 troops will go in the coming months. Luis Martinez takes a closer look and reports:
"– President Obama has today ‘authorized’ 17,000 troops, but only 12,000 are actually getting orders today.  The remaining 5,000 enabler or support troops will be getting orders at a later date.
– Also, one thing the President didn’t approve today was a third combat brigade requested by top commanders in Afghanistan.  That had been under discussion and presented to him as one of his final options.  A Defense Officials says it’s likely a decision on whether to send that additional brigade will be made after the ongoing Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy reviews are concluded.
– Quick Math :17,000 plus one brigade that went in last month (3,500),  an additional 2,000 enablers also getting orders last month and with an aviation brigade of  2,500 troops arriving in March gets you to 25,000.  That’s 5,000 shy of the estimate 30,000 request that commanders had wanted."

CLINTON IN ASIA:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has wrapped up a visit to Japan, her first stop on an overseas tour of Asia. In Tokyo, Secretary Clinton met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone to discuss such issues as North Korea’s nuclear program and signed a military agreement that will move 8,000 marines, now stationed in Okinawa, to Guam.  U.S. troops on Japanese soil has been a continuing source of tension between the two countries. Clinton said the U.S. remains firmly committed to the defense of its allies in the region and vowed to keep up the pressure on North Korea to fulfill its denuclearization pledges.  Martha Raddatz has been traveling with the Secretary of State and sat down with her today for an interview. One subject was the recent truce announced between the government of Pakistan and Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, along the Afghanistan border.  Secretary Clinton expressed this concern: "We understand that the instability in Pakistan, the safe haven given to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, the alliances among the extremists groups is a threat to the stability of the Pakistani government, a threat to the stability of Afghanistan and a much broader threat to the region and us."  Secretary Clinton is now on her way to Jakarta. Indonesia, of course, is where President Obama spent some of his childhood days and is one of the world’s most populous Muslim countries.  (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

R. ALLEN STANFORD CHANNELS HIS INNER MADOFF-  Federal regulators are charging another big money man with carrying out a ‘massive’ fraud on investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Texas financier R. Allen Stanford and three of his firms today and carried out raids on some of the companies’ offices. The alleged scheme centers on high-interest-rate certificates of deposit. The SEC says Stanford and his business misrepresented the safety of deposits in the $8 billion program. It claims the bank reinvested client funds in liquid financial instruments to help return profits sharply higher than average rates on similar CDs. The director of the SEC’s enforcement division says Stanford and a close circle of family and friends preyed on investors by making false promises and fabricating ‘historical return data.’ Jason Ryan tells us Stanford not only had some of his money connected to the Madoff scandal but he has passed the money around Washington DC including donations to President Obama, and donations to influential Republicans and Democrats on the banking Committees including Sen. Chris Dodd, Richard Shelby and Chuck Schumer. According to a record checks on Opensecrets.org some of the money from Stanford has been returned by Obama for a $2,300 donation in May. Stanford, who is also under FBI investigation, has donated large sums to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign in 2002 at key times when banking regulations were being reviewed for investment banks.“
****Brian Ross will be filing for WORLD NEWS tomorrow on this story. 

MEXICAN PROTEST-Hundreds of Mexicans blocked bridges and roads to the United States in three border cities, protesting the Mexican Army’s increasingly bloody battles with the country’s drug cartels. President Felipe Calderon began deploying troops two years ago to combat the epidemic of shootings and kidnappings. In the past year more than 6000 people have been killed. To further exacerbate the bloodshed, accusations of military misconduct,, ranging from abuses of power to civilians being shot while waiting in line at checkpoints.  The government believes that some of the protests were created by the drug cartels themselves in order to undermine the government’s drug offensive. APTN video is in house. (thanks to Faisal Jamil for this entry)

OTHER STUFF-
–Another week of rising GAS PRICES. Gas is now at an average cost of $1.96 a gallon nationwide according to the Energy Department.
–It was face the media day for ALEX RODRIGUEZ as the Yankee superstar arrived at the team’s spring training facility and addressed steroid and other performance-enhancing drug questions. We learned about A-Rod’s "cousin" who shot the superstar up with "Boli".  It wasn’t clear what exactly "boli" was. I quote Associated Press who said that "Doping experts said their best guesses were Primobolan, Dianabol or Boldenone." A-Rod also mentioned that in the early years of his Mariner career, he had used the stimulant "Ripped Fuel" which was banned by baseball before the 2006 season. Asked if he knew he was taking steroids, Rodriguez admitted "I knew we weren’t taking Tic-Tacs".
–Ariane DeVogue reports that when the Supreme Court convenes Monday February 23rd for its first day of February arguments, RUTH BADER GINSBURG is expected to take the bench. 

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