Will The Stimulus Bill Have Much Impact?
ALEX COHEN, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, appraising the appraisers. How the folks who calculate home values contributed to the economic crisis.
But first, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus plan today at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The package narrowly survived as it made its way through Congress. Republicans argue the plan is too expensive, and some Democrats say it doesn't do nearly enough.
Despite criticism from both sides of the aisle, Mr. Obama says the plan comes not a moment too soon for the nation's struggling economy. Joining me now is NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, and Mara, the president signed this bill way outside of the Beltway at a Denver museum. Why is he doing this so far from Washington?
MARA LIASSON: Well, he wants to demonstrate that this bill will have an impact on the lives of real people, and he can do that a lot better if he's outside of the Beltway. Now at this museum, he's also going to be taking a tour of the solar panel installation, and of course, he'll make the argument that this stimulus bill is going to fund a lot of what he calls green jobs. Not only is it going to employ people, but it's going to help the environment. So this is a big, high-profile event. He's actually bringing the vice president with him. Usually, they travel separately, but today they're going to be together at the tour of the museum and at the signing.
COHEN: The president has said that the stimulus plan is just one solution he has for the economy. What else can we expect to see?
LIASSON: Well, he's talked about a three-legged stool. The stimulus is one leg, the bank bailout is the other, and of course, they have to do that again because they only rolled out the concept. They're going to have to still roll out the details of how they're going to shore up the financial system. The third leg is doing something about the foreclosure crisis. And tomorrow, we're going to hear him talking about what he's going to do to help people who are in danger of losing their homes.
COHEN: And with the stimulus bill, even after it's signed, the president plans to keep promoting it. Why is that?
LIASSON: Well, first of all, his political fate rests on how people judge the stimulus plan. And he knows that Republicans are on the lookout for every single instance of wasteful spending or boondoggles, and when you're spending something like $789 billion - $500 billion of which is actual spending, the rest is tax cuts - that's not going to be hard to do. The Republicans are going to have an easy case to make that some of this money is wasted.
Democrats are going to point, and the president is going to point to jobs that were saved, jobs that were created, how much worse off we would be without this. The fact is that there's going to be a huge debate over whether this thing is working, and when the economy does finally start to revive, whether the stimulus plan is what did it or whether it was something else, whether it was the Fed that flooded the economy with cash. We won't ever really know.
People are still debating 70 years later about whether or not FDR's New Deal actually corrected the Great Depression or whether it was World War II.
COHEN: Finally, Mara, let's take a look ahead. What is next on the president's agenda? And what else will he be talking about and promoting in the weeks to come?
LIASSON: Well, he has the State of the Union, the big address to Congress next Tuesday. He has what's called a fiscal responsibility summit on Monday, which is kind of an extraordinary thing where he's going to be trying to explain to people how after he's increasing the deficit by trillions of dollars, how at some point in the future he's going to bring it down so that we don't basically become like a Banana Republic and inflate our way out of this mess.
In other words, the solution to the immediate crisis, which is deficit spending, is going to cause another problem that has to be solved down the road. He's also going to be rolling out his budget next week, which will have some parts of his health-care agenda on it. And of course, tomorrow, he will be talking about housing in Phoenix, Arizona.
COHEN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you, Alex.
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