Howdy folks-Clem Lane here. The President took his Job-centric State of the Union message to Florida today and will be in Baltimore tomorrow with more jobs news. That and today's other news below…..
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO/IS BI-PARTISANSHIP POSSIBLE?-The President took his jobs message on the road today, traveling to Tampa, Florida with the Vice-President to tout more than a dozen light-speed rail projects around the country and the stimulus money that’s making it happen. Creating jobs, fixing the economy…in Tampa today the President said “"We're not going to rest until we've rebuilt an economy in which our hard work is rewarded…and the middle class can get its legs underneath it again.” Jake Tapper, reporting for WORLD NEWS, also noted the President’s continued call for “bipartisanship” saying of Republicans “I want them working with us to solve problems facing working families, not to score points.” As you might imagine, it’s much easier said than accomplished. Republican reaction to the President’s speech last night included some kudos-Tapper reports that “Republican Senator Lindsey Graham liked what he heard from the President on nuclear power and off-shore drilling.” Unfortunately, Tapper also notes that “many Republicans are in no mood for compromise on big issues such as health care reform.” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, explained it well when he said “It was kind of difficult for Republicans to swallow a lot of the criticism that he aimed at us and then feel very good about cooperating in a new bi-partisan spirit.” That “bi-partisan spirit” gets a quick test that already sounds doomed to fail-Tapper in his close noted “Democrats are planning on unveiling a jobs bill next week that incorporates some of the proposals the President made last night. Republicans asked if they could support this jobs bill say they are not sure, they don't know what it in it, it is being written by Democrats away from them without any Republican input.” As noted Talking Heads frontman and possible Capitol Hill pundit David Byrne once said…”same as it ever was”.
JOBS AND SMALL BUSINESSES-President Obama’s embrace of small business-focused jobs legislation seems to make sense, Betsy Stark reported on WORLD NEWS: “Experts agree. Any serious plan to jump-start hiring in a stagnant job market has to target small businesses. Light a fire under them and a recovery is likely to ignite…leading the country out of recession.” Not convinced? Statistics don’t lie…Stark again: “There are nearly 30 million small businesses in America, employing just over half of America’s workers…and for the past 15 years, they have accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s new hires.” Now that THAT’s settled…Betsy Stark cuts to the chase: “Just how many jobs would each of the President’s proposals last night create?” She’s got the 411-“Experts agreed the idea with the greatest potential to create jobs quickly is the tax credit for new hires. Depending on the size of the credit, it could add between 500 thousand and 1 million jobs in the next year.” Runner-up? Stark:”The plan to give community banks $30 billion to lend to small businesses…possibly adding 50 to 100 thousand jobs.” Less “stimulating”? Stark:”bigger tax breaks for new equipment…and eliminating the capital gains tax on small business are expected to create very few jobs-just 10 to 20 thousand.” As for those who would benefit from these proposals…small businesses …while some liked the idea of tax credits, the 900-pound elephant in the room-SALES- seems to drive most of the enthusiasm. Stark:” For many business owners, sales are what it's all about. As one told me today, ‘why do I need a tax break to buy a new truck if I don't have any customers to deliver to?’”
PRESIDENT OBAMA/SMALL BUSINESS JOBS & WAGES TAX CREDIT-The President is back at it tomorrow. Sunlen Miller reports “President Obama will visit a small business in Baltimore, Maryland tomorrow to speak specifically about one part of his jobs initiatives outlined in his State of the Union address; the proposed small business jobs and wages tax credit. The TBA small business the President will visit will be one that could ‘potentially benefit’ from the proposal and spur hiring this year – something an administration official likened to the popular cash-for-clunkers program.
‘This is meant a little bit like the cash-for-clunkers program to given extra incentive to go out, hire and maybe take someone you were going to sit on the sidelines for another 6 months and do it now,’ a senior administration official says.
The president’s proposal will cut taxes and provide the incentive ‘not just to add jobs, but also to raise wages, to expand work hours, and to create good paying jobs,’ a senior administration official says.”
The detes…Sunlen Miller: “Businesses will receive a $5,000 tax credit for every net new employee that they employ in 2010. The total amount of credit will be capped at $500,000 per firm, to ensure that the majority of the benefit goes to small businesses.
Small businesses will be reimbursed for the Social Security payroll taxes they pay on real increases in their payrolls. Specifically, firms that increase wages, expand hours or hire new workers would get a credit against the added payroll taxes that result. This bonus would be based on Social Security payrolls, so it would not apply to wage increases above the current taxable maximum of $106,800.
Firms will be able to claim the credit on a quarterly basis, which gets money out to businesses quickly and provides an early incentive to hire and increase payrolls. Non-profits will be eligible for the credit and start-ups will be eligible for half the credit.
The proposal is estimated to cost $33 billion dollars over and would be paid for by ‘more fiscal space’ created by TARP than originally thought. The White House estimates that 1 million small businesses would benefit from this specific proposal.
All of the provisions would apply to calendar year 2010 and would be retroactive to the beginning of the year.”
TOYOTA MADNESS: The recall of millions of Toyotas has created havoc for the automaker, its dealers and customers alike. But the world’s largest automaker thinks it has figured out why the gas pedals are sticking on many of vehicles – and Brian Ross tells us: “The problem was determined to be excessive wear of an interior part, caused by condensation build up, making the pedal slow to return to idle.” So the pedal has been redesigned and the supplier has begun shipping the new product to Toyota dealers. Problem solved? Apparently not – as Brian explains: “The supplier says that won't really fix the problem entirely, that Toyota told it none of the serious accidents or deaths linked to runaway cars was caused by sticking gas pedals.” So what’s a Toyota owner to do? Kate Snow says dealers are overwhelmed: “Some dealers are inspecting cars. Some are sending people home, telling them to call an 800 number.” Lots of luck with that. But Kate says you can always go to your computer: “About a million people have gone to Toyota’s website. The company tells people if they have a sticking accelerator it can be controlled by “stepping on the brake…”do not pump”…shift the transmission into neutral.” But as the mystery of the sticking pedal continues, one loyal customer says while he still thinks Toyota makes a quality product, he wishes the automaker would just send a letter to its customers explaining what is really going on. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
WINTER STORM: A powerful storm has iced over Oklahoma and the Southern Plains. Ice and sleet have made road conditions dangerous for drivers in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma, and many flights out of Lubbock, Amarillo and Wichita Falls were cancelled. Seventy-mile-an-hour straight-line winds north of Dallas ripped the roof off of a nursing home and downed power lines. None of the 24 nursing home residents were hurt. More than 60,000 customers in Oklahoma are without power thanks to the ice snapping power lines, and more outages are expected as the storm intensifies. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management plans to open an emergency response center to coordinate the state’s response to the storm. Governor Brad Henry declared a state-wide emergency Wednesday in anticipation of the storm. The storm will continue moving east into tomorrow, bringing snow and ice to Tennessee and Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama, before proceeding into the Mid Atlantic states Friday night.
Up north, New Jersey and New York woke up to snow and sleet, which snarled morning commutes and caused a number of traffic accidents. High winds are moving into the area tonight, dropping temps into the teens and below, which are expected to continue through the weekend. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
HAITI RESCUES-We learned more today about last night’s dramatic rescue of a teenage girl in Haiti who had been buried under the rubble since the initial quake struck some fifteen days ago. David Wright, reporting for WORLD NEWS, tells us that “16-year-old Darline Etienne had no broken bones but was barely able to speak” when a French rescue team extracted her from the rubble. As we’ve noticed with other recent rescues, why they have been able to survive longer than expected seems to center on location. Wright tells us Ms. Etienne “was apparently taking a shower when the earthquake struck…the fact she was in the bathroom may have saved her life, because she had access to water.” Wright goes on to say that “water is life for a person who’s trapped” and explains “Scientists say the average person can lose 20 percent of their water weight and still survive. The body typically sheds 5 or 6 cups a day, so without access to water, it’s rare to last more than 3 or 4 days.” Whatever the reasons, the result still seems like nothing short of a miracle. And as Wright noted in his close “Haiti is badly in need of miracles.”
JD SALINGER OBIT: Author J.D. Salinger passed away of natural causes at his home in Cornish, NH, his son Matt announced today. He was 91. The reclusive Salinger penned the top-selling “The Catcher in the Rye,” a tale about rebellious teen Holden Caulfield that was became required – and in some places, restricted – reading for students. “The book was censored by some school libraries. Denounced from pulpits,” Diane Sawyer told us on WORLD NEWS. And as Salinger’s popularity grew, he became increasingly isolated. “He withdrew – to this house in New Hampshire, where rare sightings made him seem as pure and unattainable as a poetic unicorn. He rejected publishers – and meetings with Hollywood stars – from Brando to DiCaprio. His last book was issued in 1965. But his original work is always there for any teenager who thinks they’re alone,” Sawyer reported. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
ABORTION SHOOTING TRIAL-A Kansas judge ruled this afternoon that a jury cannot consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the trial of a man charged with killing abortion services doctor George Tiller. Scott Roeder has admitted killing Tiller but has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault. His defense team had argued for the lesser charge, arguing that Roeder believed he had to kill Tiller to save the lives of unborn children. Judge Warren Wilbert ruled on the possible charges after the defense rested Thursday afternoon. Closing arguments are expected tomorrow.
AMERICAN DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA?-North Korea says that they detained an American citizen for “trespassing on its border with China”. That story ran last night on Associated Press around 9:40pm ET…nearly 24 hours later, we don’t know much more. From Kirit Radia: ““The US has not yet been able to confirm an American has been detained in North Korea, though they’re taking the report very seriously. They’ve asked Sweden, the US protecting power in Pyongyang, to inquire but have gotten no answers yet.
State Dept spokesman PJ Crowley said that indications are this would be a second American detained in North Korea, one in addition to missionary Robert Park who slipped into the country on Christmas day to draw attention to the plight of North Korean prisoners.”
PEPPERED SALAMI/SALMONELLA-Looks like we know the cause of the salmonella outbreak in the peppered salami that sickened folks in 40+ states. David Kerley: “It is the pepper that made people sick. The pepper was rolled onto the outside of the salami. The Rhode Island Department of Health says tests link an open 50 pound container of ground pepper to the type of salmonella that made 189 people in 40 states (new numbers) sick. But was it just that one container? Unopened containers are being tested with results due back in 48-72 hours. Daniele, the salami maker, bought the pepper from a distributor, Wholesome Spice of New York.” Kerley has so far been unsuccessful in getting a comment from the distributor. The outstanding question Kerley points out is “where was the pepper contaminated?. At the source (Vietnam, India, Brazil or Indonesia), or by the U.S. importer, or the distributors who buy from the importer and then sell to food companies?”
“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” COMING TO THE HILL- “Next Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will dedicate the final hour of its pre-scheduled budget hearing to discuss ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ with Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell has told reporters that both Gates and Mullen will discuss with the committee what he’s calling an ‘implementation plan’ of steps that would be needed before getting to the point of actually repealing the legislation….He says he doesn’t know exactly what they’ll be bringing up at the hearing.” Some context from Martha Raddatz on the subject: ““Some of the service chiefs (the joint chiefs) have concerns about repealing the law ‘at this time’ given that the nation is involved in two wars. It is not a personal reflection of how they feel about gays in the military, but rather that the force is so strained right now, it is not ‘the right time.’ There is also concern about recruiting since that is focused on a fairly conservative part of the country.”
–BERNANKE CONFIRMED-The Senate confirmed Ben Bernanke to a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The vote was 70-30…12 Democrats voted against Bernanke’s re-confirmation. The President released a statement which read in part “I congratulate him on his confirmation and look forward to working with him in the days ahead." (Zach Wolf/Jake Tapper)