News

Obama signs historic stimulus bill into law

By LIZ SIDOTIAssociated Press Writer

DENVER - President Barack Obama has signed into law the most sweeping economic package in decades, a rescue plan designed to create millions of jobs and boost consumer spending.

It was a major political victory for Obama, who took office less than a month ago.

Obama said the government has begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time.

The $787 billion package aims to reverse the nation's economic free fall. It pumps money into infrastructure projects, health care, renewable energy development and conservation. There's a $400 tax break for most individual workers and $800 for couples. It dishes out tens of billions of dollars to states.

Obama signed the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The setting was to underscore the new law's investments in "green" energy-related jobs.

Obama isn’t ruling out a second economic stimulus plan, a top aide said Tuesday.

Ahead of Obama’s arrival in Colorado, the White House went live with a Web site, www.recovery.gov, that will allow people to track where the money is being spent. The White House press office also promoted the projected job growth for each state and congressional district.

Aboard Air Force One en route here, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters the White House was open-minded about another similar effort. But he stressed that there are no plans currently in the works for one.

The failing economy continues to dominate Obama’s time.

Tuesday is when General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which are living off a combined $13.4 billion in federal bailout loans, are due to hand in plans to the government about how they can remain viable.

And on Wednesday in Arizona, Obama will unveil another part of his economic recovery effort — a plan to help millions of homeowners fend off foreclosure.

But first comes the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, which tries to address the nation’s economic free fall on multiple fronts.It pumps money into infrastructure projects, health care, renewable energy development and conservation, with twin goals of short-term job production and longer-term economic viability.

There’s a $400 tax break for most individual workers and $800 for couples, including those who do not earn enough to pay income taxes. It dishes out tens of billions of dollars to states so they can head off deep cuts and layoffs. It provides financial incentives for people to start buying again, from first homes to new cars.

And it provides help to poor people and laid-off workers, with increased unemployment benefits and food stamps, and subsides for health insurance.

What the legislation is not expected to do is change the nation’s economic fortunes quickly. So part of the White House’s goal has been managing expectations.

Gibbs had said over the long holiday weekend that “things have not yet bottomed out. They are probably going to get worse before they improve. But this is a big step forward toward making that improvement and putting people back to work.”The unemployment rate is now at 7.6 percent, the highest in more than 16 years. Analysts warn the economy will remain feeble through 2009.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, largely balked at the economic package. It drew no GOP votes in the House and only three in the Senate, albeit vital ones. Many Republicans said it was short on cutting taxes and the spending measures didn’t target the vast sums of money well enough toward short-term job creation, which was the major goal of the bill.

But with the economy shedding jobs, there was widespread consensus in Washington for some sort of stimulus, and fast.Yet the government’s action comes at a cost down the line.

Many private economists are forecasting that the budget deficit for the current year will hit $1.6 trillion, including the stimulus spending. That’s about three times last year’s shortfall, and such year-to-year deficits contribute toward a mounting national debt.

  Comments