White House Plans More Economic Stimulus
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
And for some analysis, we turn to NPR's Cokie Roberts, who's a regular on our Monday program. Good morning, Cokie.
COKIE ROBERTS: Morning Deborah, how nice to talk to you and have you on these shores.
AMOS: Indeed. The president still has many more legislative battles to wage. Yesterday, Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, said that the administration plans to do more to try to create jobs. Will Congress go along with that?
ROBERTS: Well, the House of Representatives already has done some of the things that she's talking about, but clearly the Friday reports of 85,000 jobs lost last month came as something of a shock. The administration, I think, was expecting some jobs gains. And Romer says she still expects that kind of growth by spring. But she says the government just has to do more.
And the deficit can't be in the way of that right now, because you can't get a deficit down when you have this many people out of work and not paying taxes. So, you have to get them back to work. She's definitely ready to talk about tax breaks from - tax credits for small business to hire people, as well as provided measures like extended unemployment benefits.
AMOS: But that's not going to be so easy. The previous stimulus packages are unpopular; the bailout of the financial institutions are extremely unpopular.
ROBERTS: True, very unpopular. And the banks are absolutely rubbing salt in the wounds with reports of seven- and eight-figure bonuses for their executives. And the bankers are apparently concerned about how to deal with the public relations aspects of that, instead of saying why don't we just not pay ourselves these unbelievable amounts of money?
Romer said yesterday, that the big bonus season is of, quote, "of course going to offend the American people. It offends me," she said. And the big bank CEOs will have to show up Wednesday at the first hearing of a 9-11-style commission that's been created to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. But they're not likely to make the public feel much better about them.
AMOS: Now, in the middle of this, President Obama is facing another crisis, and this is a flap over comments of the majority leader, Harry Reid. Some Republicans are calling for him to quit. Is that going to happen?
ROBERTS: I think highly unlikely. There's a new book out called "Game Change" about the 2008 campaign. It's a nice gossipy, juicy book, and it quotes Harry Reid as saying that Obama has a good chance because he's, quote, "a light-skinned African-American with no," quote, "Negro dialect unless he wants one."
Immediately the Republicans pounced on this. The Republican chairman, Michael Steele, says that Reid should resign. Steele's been having problems of his own, mainly within his own party. And other Republicans comparing it to remarks that then-Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott made about how the world might've been better if Strom Thurmond, a segregationist at the time, had been elected president.
Now, the remarks are very different. Reid has apologized, not only to the president, who immediately accepted his apology, but to many African-American leaders that he contacted over the weekend. So, I think that he is probably safe as majority leader. The president desperately needs him there to get his health care bill finally through and these other measures we're talking about.
But Harry Reid has a rough road ahead. I mean, you just heard in Don Gonyea's piece about Democrats representing areas that voted Republican and how they have got a hard election year ahead. And if Democrats start to see Reid as a liability in this election year, then, you know, all bets are off.
AMOS: Thank you very much. NPR's Cokie Roberts.
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