Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Government and private reports this week revealed the worst housing slump in more than a decade is deepening.
**According to the Commerce Department, new home sales dropped by more than 8 percent in August to their lowest level in seven years. And the National Association of Realtors **reports sales of existing single-family homes dropped to a five-year low.
**Meanwhile, orders for durable goods, everything from commercial jetliners to home appliances, fell by nearly five percent in August -- their largest decline in seven months.
**Couple those reports with crude oil prices well above $80 per barrel and it should come as no surprise that **the Consumer Confidence index fell this week its lowest level since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf coast in 2005.
One place where there never seems to be a shortage of optimism -- or money, for that matter -- is in Washington. And this week, Congress ignored the threat of a presidential veto by approving $23 billion worth of water development and restoration plans.
The Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, authorizes hundreds of projects and studies in almost every state in the Union. Among them are $2 billion to increase the size of locks and dams on the Mississippi River, $3.6 billion for restoration projects along the Louisiana coast, and $2 billion for the completion of a comprehensive Florida Everglades restoration plan.
While Congress authorized the projects, it did not appropriate funds to complete them. If the money is allocated, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive a huge shot in the arm.
The measure is being hailed as veto-proof due to its passage by a wide margin in both the House and the Senate. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said the act helps meet water and infrastructure needs and protects communities from floods and storms.
The W-R-D-A also received support from farm groups.
Austin Perez, American Farm Bureau Federation: "If you look at the 20 plus billion in the context of four bills that were supposed to be passed it's really a relatively reasonable bill."
The legislation also includes oversight safeguards. The Corps, which has been under increased scrutiny for misuse of funds, would be subject to independent peer review if any red-flags were raised.
Critics are calling the bill another example of lawmakers approving their pet projects. And nay- sayers question the ability of the Army Corps to complete the work. According to critics, there already is a $58 billion backlog of projects to be completed and the Army Corps only has a $2 billion annual budget.
The bill is now on President Bush's desk awaiting his decision.