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Obama's Ambitious Second Term Agenda

posted on January 25, 2013

Sales of new homes slowed a bit in December, but on an annual basis they were the best since 2009.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that new-home sales fell more than 7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000. That's down from November's rate of 398,000, which was the best in 2 1/2 years.

Annually, however, new-home sales ROSE nearly 20 percent in 2012.  While the tally was only about half of what economists consider healthy, it was a welcome improvement after 2011 -- the worst year for new-home sales since the government began keeping records in 1963.

The median price of a new home rose in December to $248,900.  That’s a one percent increase from November and 13.8 percent improvement from December of 2011.

But the supply of homes on the market rose last month to 151,000. That’s the most in a year.  

While new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have a big impact on the economy. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes. 

Just about anything creating jobs and revenue is up for debate in Washington these days.  But that’s not to say there aren’t other important issues.  And in his second and final inaugural this week he outlined an ambitious agenda.

Obama's Ambitious Second Term Agenda

The pomp and circumstance of a presidential inauguration brings a call for optimism in the nation’s capital.

“I, Barack Hussein Obama,…”

As Barack Obama embarked on his second presidential term, the challenges facing his administration -- and the nation -- are making headlines.

Debt, immigration and guns are at the top of the agenda, but in rural America, the issue of farm policy is at the forefront of farmers’ and ranchers’ minds.

Tom Vilsack is staying on as Secretary of Agriculture. No head of the USDA has served in a second term since Dan Glickman held the position for nearly six years during the Clinton Administration.

 One of Vilsack’s main priorities will be shepherding the Farm Bill through the House of Representatives where the legislation emerged from the  Ag Committee, but never made it to the full chamber for debate or a vote. The Senate passed ITS version of the long-awaited Farm Bill in June in a celebrated bi-partisan fashion.

Mere hours after Obama took the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capital, clean-up crews were dismantling the inauguration stage. But, inside the halls of Congress, battle lines were already being drawn over the debt ceiling. The House voted to eliminate the borrowing limit until May without addressing spending cuts previously insisted upon by Republicans. The legislation includes a provision that would withhold the pay of lawmakers in any chamber that fails to pass a budget by April 15.

While the Senate has not passed a detailed budget since 2009, House Republicans served notice they're still bent on slashing spending.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala. "America is on a path to insolvency and bankruptcy, an event that will debilitate our country."

The White House, however, was encouraged by a GOP move to raise the debt ceiling, at least for three months.

Jay Carney, White House press secretary: "... a very significant development in terms of de-escalating the sense of conflict over this."

The President is also calling for an immigration overhaul, but activists served notice this had better not be lip service.

Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition: "So that one day very soon, the families will not face the separation of deportation. They will have their labors in the fields honored in every way possible."

The president also made one of his more bold agenda items directed at environmental supporters.

President Barack Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it."

Gun control debate reawakened following the death of elementary students in Connecticut.

President Obama:"This time, words need to lead to action."

On this issue, too, the ground SEEMS to have shifted. Even gun-rights backers are signaling they're open to ... SOME reforms.

Jonathan Lowy, Director, Legal Action Project, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence "We're more optimistic about the possibility of some sensible legislation coming out of Capitol Hill on guns than we have been in decades."

Yet the National Rifle Association opposes any changes to gun laws, and it's unclear whether ANY gun measures can actually pass.

But if Washington remains paralyzed by the debt...?

Prof. Danny Hayes, George Washington University "He's limited in how much traction he can probably get on any of these other policy issues until the fiscal issues are settled."

And history's not encouraging. Presidential second acts often disappoint.

Prof. Danny Hayes, George Washington University: "He's going to have to pick a couple of things that he really wants to go to the mat on. And he has to do that relatively early."

Tags: Barack Obama climate change debt ceiling limits guns history immigration inaugural addresses news U.S. USDA Washington D.C. weather