Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Volatility in global financial markets coupled with a troubling report on the domestic housing industry prompted the Federal Reserve to cut a key interest rate this week.
**On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported July housing starts plunged more than 20 percent from 2006, to their lowest level in a decade.
**One day later, the Fed unexpectedly cut a key short-term interest rate, signaling its concern that turmoil in the financial markets is being felt in the broader economy.
**The move sparked an immediate rally on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrials opened more than 300 points higher.
While financial markets have garnered most of the attention recently, turbulence isn't limited to the equity sector. Just as important are the economic issues affecting the rest of the nation – including farm country.
Agriculture, for example, depends heavily on a labor force that is seasonal, and to a large extent -- illegal. But tighter border security is causing a shortage of farm workers... and immigration is becoming a hot topic for those seeking the presidency.
Presidential candidates from both sides of the political spectrum spent much of the week campaigning at the nation's quintessential icon of rural life – the Iowa State Fair.
Hillary Clinton, D – New York: "We've got to turn this country in the right direction…"
Immigration policy is an important issue for many rural voters. Speaking to Iowans this week, Sen. Hillary Clinton explained her plan, which would encourage immigrants to pay back taxes and outstanding fines, learn English, and "stay out of trouble."
On the Republican side of the Presidential race, Arizona Senator John McCain, who was instrumental in this summer's failed bid to overhaul immigration policy, admitted to receiving death threats due to his aggressive position in favor of legalizing millions of immigrants already in the United States.
Meanwhile, off the campaign trail, the U.S. Census Bureau entered the fray. The federal department in charge of compiling data on items such as population and ethnicity, is asking immigration agents to suspend enforcement raids during the 2010 census.
Census Bureau officials say the raids like this one at a meatpacking plant last year, push illegal workers into hiding and will make it more difficult to assess an accurate population.
Sec. Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security: "Sync from last winter's presser…"
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has yet to address the Census Bureau request. But he has acknowledged an increase in workplace enforcement could hurt certain sectors of the economy that are heavily dependent on seasonal laborers – including agriculture.