President Signs Massive Stimulus In Denver

Republicans Protest Stimulus At State Capitol

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

The stimulus plan of spending programs and tax cuts is at the heart of Obama's effort to turn the economy back into a job-creating machine. It comes with a huge price tag for taxpayers and lingering doubts about whether the plan's results will match all the lofty promises that its supporters have made.

Obama signed the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, before roughly 250 people including alternative energy business leaders. The setting was to underscore the new law's investments in green energy-related jobs.

Obama was introduced by the chief executive officer of Namaste Solar, the company that created the 465 solar panels installed on the museum's roof. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden examined solar panels on the museum's roof before speaking at the event.

The stimulus package was a huge victory for Obama less than one month into his presidency. But he struck a sober tone and lowered expectations for an immediate turnaround in the severe recession that is well into its second year.

"None of this will be easy," he said. "The road to recovery will not be straight. We will make progress, and there may be some slippage along the way.

"I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic troubles," Obama said before signing the legislation. "Nor does it constitute all of what we going to have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end."

Obama said the stimulus represented the "essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time."

Taking the long view, Obama cast the law as just "the beginnings of the first steps" to jerk the country out of a crisis he inherited from GOP President George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the White House isn't ruling out a second economic plan, although none is in the works right now, spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

"The president is going to do whatever he thinks is necessary to get our economy moving again."

The legislation is the most sweeping economic overhaul plan put forth in decades.

Details Of Stimulus

One of the biggest public spending programs since World War II, the new law is designed to create jobs in the short term and to boost consumer confidence to battle the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It also makes down payments on Obama's health care, energy and education goals.

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.

First-time home buyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 1 would be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit. And those receiving unemployment benefits this year wouldn't pay any federal income taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.

And it provides help to poor people and laid-off workers, with increased unemployment benefits and food stamps, and subsides for health insurance. Tax credits will give millions of workers $13 extra each paycheck starting in June.

Ahead of Obama's arrival in Colorado, the White House went live with a Web site, 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.

Obama said the stimulus package had received broad support in Washington and elsewhere, though Democrats pushed it to passage with only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.

Protest Rally Held At Capitol

Colorado Republicans rallied at the state Capitol to coincide with the signing. The state GOP ran full-page ads in Tuesday's editions of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post criticizing the bill as pork-laden and ineffective.

Roughly 200 people screamed, "No more pork!" They held oversized poster board checks, arguing that each American will be saddled with $30,000 debt to pay off the stimulus bill.

They said now that the bill has been signed, Americans will get a chance to take a closer look and realize that there are a lot of earmarks.

To emphasize the theme, the crowd hosted a black pot-bellied pig named Nathan and ate pork sandwiches.

Republican lawmakers have 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.

Details Of Obama's Visit

Obama's signing ceremony was by invitation only and the museum was closed to the public for the occasion.

Passes for the visit contain an image of the White House and presidential seal, but they are upside down, according to 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn. That will likely make them even more valuable as collector's items.

Tuesday's visit was Obama's first to Colorado as president, though he stumped here frequently as a candidate. Obama was last in Colorado on Nov. 1, the Saturday before Election Day, when he addressed a rally in Pueblo.

Museum director George Sparks said that Obama's ceremony was the first time a sitting president has visited the institution.

Economic Woes

What the stimulus bill 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.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs 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.

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.

Even with the bill signed, the flailing economy continues to dominate Obama's time.

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

The beleaguered automakers were back in Washington for more bailout billions. The United Auto Workers union said it had agreed to tentative concessions that should help Detroit's struggling Big Three, but Chrysler LLC said it was cutting three vehicle models and 3,000 jobs -- and still needed a new $5 billion cash infusion from the government. General Motors Corp. received a fresh $4 billion.

Anything but reassured, Wall Street dove ever lower. The Dow Jones industrials fell 297.81 points, closing less than a point above their lowest level in five and a half years.

On Wednesday, Obama will outline another big piece of his recovery effort -- a $50 billion plan to help stem foreclosures -- in Arizona, one of the states hardest hit by the mortgage defaults that are at the center of the nation's economic woes.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner mentioned the housing program last week as he rolled out a wide-ranging financial-sector rescue plan that could send $2 trillion coursing through the financial system. Obama is expected to detail how the administration plans to prod the mortgage industry to do more in modifying the terms of home loans so borrowers have lower monthly payments.

More than 2.3 million homeowners coast-to-coast faced foreclosure proceedings last year, an 81 percent increase from 2007. Analysts say that number could soar as high as 10 million in the coming years, depending on the severity of the recession.

A Lot On Line

While laying the groundwork to address woes in the auto, financial and housing sectors, Obama spent some of his political capital lobbying hard for the stimulus package that the Democratic-controlled Congress approved last week. Obama has essentially pinned his political future on his prescriptions for the ailing economy, going so far as to raise the possibility of a one-term presidency if he fails.

There's no guarantee that Obama's enormous marshaling of resources and multi-pronged approach will stunt the economic freefall, much less produce jobs or bring prosperity. The only thing certain is that Obama is on track to boost a federal debt that stands at $10.7 trillion.

Clearly mindful of that, Obama said: "We will need to do everything in the short term to get our economy moving again" as well as "begin restoring fiscal discipline and taming our exploding deficits over the long term."

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC were racing to complete plans they were due to submit to the government Tuesday detailing how they would repay government loans and restructure their operations to remain viable. Detroit's third major automaker, Ford Motor Co., did not request government help.

GM already has received $9.4 billion in government loans and Chrysler $4 billion. Administration officials said GM was getting the second installment of its loans, $4 billion, on Tuesday, and Chrysler said it needed $5 billion more to survive. It said it would cut 3,000 jobs and three vehicle models as part of the restructuring plan it submitted to the government.

Chrysler originally said that it would need just another $3 billion on top of the $4 billion in government loans it received in December.

In Michigan, the United Auto Workers union said it had reached a tentative deal with Chrysler, General Motors and Ford to modify its 2007 contracts with the automakers.

Union President Ron Gettelfinger said discussions were continuing about payments into trust funds that will take over retiree health care starting next year -- changes he said could help the companies in the difficult economic climate they now face.

As a White House task force prepared to oversee the companies' restructuring, presidential spokesman Gibbs said the administration had not closed the door to a government-backed bankruptcy for the companies.

Obama contends the stimulus plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs. Critics, mostly Republicans, contend it is filled with wasteful spending and provisions that won't boost the economy.

Recession victims will get extended unemployment benefits and help with health care coverage, as well as more food stamps and job training opportunities. States will get cash to prevent them from cutting aid for schools and local governments. Billions are slated for road and bridge construction, mass transit, high-speed rail and national parks.

Middle-income and wealthy taxpayers will be spared from income tax increase that would otherwise hit them. First-time home buyers, new car buyers, college students, poor families with several children and people who make their homes energy efficient also will get breaks.

The measure also includes money for three top items on the president's agenda -- expanding computerized information technology in the health care industry, creating "green" jobs Obama says will help wean the country off foreign oil dependence, and improving the quality of kindergarten through 12th grade education.

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