Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Government spending kicked into overdrive this week as President Obama signed a sweeping stimulus bill and proposed additional federal programs. Wall Street investors, reeling from months of negative economic data, responded negatively.
The Dow Jones Industrials witnessed a steady decline throughout the week to close below 7500 for the first time in six years.
Commercial banks and investment firms borrowed more from the Federal Reserve's emergency lending program at a price tag of $66 billion.
General Motors and Chrysler also upped the ante. The beleaguered automakers pledged to slash 50,000 jobs and asked Uncle Sam to double their federal aid to a grand total $39 billion.
And President Obama unveiled new guidelines for a federal mortgage relief plan aimed at saving the "American Dream" of home ownership.
The ambitious housing program, intended to restructure millions of mortgages, comes separately from the stimulus bill and could cost $75 billion. If the list of government spending isn't enough to digest, the President this week initialed the signature bill of his young Administration including funds for Rural America.
The stimulus package contains a boost for several USDA initiatives. An estimated $20 billion will be pumped into the food stamp program to provide nutrition assistance for more than 31 million families. Other appropriations include: $7.2 billion for rural broadband expansion, $1.4 billion for rural water and waste disposal, and $290 million for flood prevention efforts.
Among the items Secretary Vilsack hoped would survive the conference committee was a $250 million allocation for bioenergy research but the money was slashed from the final legislation.
Other casualties included $245 million line-item to modernize USDA's aging computer equipment. Vilsack learned about the out-of-date technology on his first day when an email to USDA employees was delayed for several hours because it needed to be recalled, reformatted, and then sent out to accommodate USDA's 29 different computer systems. The final version of the stimulus bill contains only $50 million for system upgrades.