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ThinkFast: February 9, 2009

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"ThinkFast: February 9, 2009"

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Congressional Republicans are “so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time,” according to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is thrilled his party is “standing on our core principles” against President Obama’s recovery plans. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) agreed, saying that what “will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that we are standing up on principle and just saying no.”

Health care will be a “‘central focus’ of Obama’s first budget proposal,” reports Jonathan Cohn. Despite recent rumors that health care reform would be put on hold, “administration officials have said repeatedly that…Obama himself has indicated health care is a top priority, to be pursued shortly after the debate over the economic stimulus package is over.”

67 percent of Americans approve of how President Obama “has handled the government’s efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill,” according to a new Gallup poll. Forty-eight percent approve of how congressional Democrats have acted while only 31 percent approve the performance by congressional Republicans. Fifty-eight percent disapprove of the GOP’s actions.

In a Washington Post op-ed this morning, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) says that he is “supporting the economic stimulus package” because “the country cannot afford not to take action. “Failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months,” writes Specter. “By then the cost of action will be much greater — or it may be too late.”

Experts say that the Senate’s “proposed $15,000 tax credit for home buyers would boost the ailing housing market but do little to help low-income people who need it most.” The provision focuses on high-income households rather than “on the lowest-income people and people really teetering on the edge of homelessness,” said Linda Couch, deputy director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“In an effort to build support for his signature economic stimulus plan,” Obama will travel to Elkart, IN today. With a 15.3 percent jobless rate, Elkhart leads the nation in unemployment. “Shovel-ready” projects could create 2,000 jobs in the area.

The New Deal “planted three billion trees, constructed 46,000 bridges, and restored 360 Civil War battlefields. … More than 65,000 buildings…rose from the hands of previously unemployed Americans.” But hundreds of these structures are now “being demolished or threatened with destruction, mourned or fought over by small groups of citizens in a new national movement to save the architecture of the New Deal.”

FEMA has denied nearly 90 percent of the “730,000 applications for money to help with home repairs, mobile homes or other housing services needed after” Hurricane Ike hit Texas last year. The agency has denied 650,000 aid applications, saying the claimants are ineligible for aid.

Nissan will “slash 20,000 jobs and post its first loss in nine years as the global recession cripples car demand.”

And finally: In his new book “The Gamble,” Thomas Ricks recounts an example of the “loathing” Donald Rumsfeld generated. Shortly after he left the Pentagon, Rumsfeld visited the upscale D.C. restaurant Buck’s Fishing and Camping. Chef-owner Carole Greenwood told her co-owner, James Alefantis, that she wanted Rumsfeld kicked out: “I’m not serving a war criminal in my restaurant.” Greenwood eventually relented, “but only on the condition that someone else cook Rumsfeld’s meal.”

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