ThinkFast: March 4, 2011

The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent. That is the fastest pace of hiring in almost a year, and it is the lowest rate since April 2009.

President Obama called on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to “step down from power and leave” immediately and said that he would consider a full range of options — including a no-fly zone — to curb violence there. “Muammar Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.” Obama said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) plans to tackle Social Security and Medicare reform this spring, joining with President Obama to “lessen the political risk.” Despite the fact most Americans view such cuts as “unacceptable,” Boehner insists that “most Americans don’t have a clue” to “how big the problem is.”

Yesterday in a meeting with Vice President Biden, the White House and congressional Democrats “offered to trim an additional $6.5 billion from current spending.” But the GOP set a goal of “cutting agency budgets by $61 billion,” a gap that illustrates “the difficulty the two parties faced in reaching a compromise before the March 18 expiration” of the recently-passed CR.

Despite the GOP’s bashing of the EPA, Republicans “actually like many of the agency’s efforts, particularly bread-and-butter programs aimed at cleaning up drinking water and air pollution in their districts.” President Obama suggests cuts to these programs, putting Republicans in the awkward position of defending the EPA during a hearing on the agency yesterday.

A bipartisan group of 18 Senators sent President Obama a letter yesterday asking him to improve federal foreclosure programs, spurred by record foreclosures but also aggressive action by House Republicans to curtail those programs. A record 2.9 million homes received foreclosure notices last year. The House considered four bills this week that would terminate Obama-initiated foreclosure assistance measures.

And finally: After a home-brewed honey ale was a big hit at its Super Bowl party last month, the White House plans to ramp up production of home brew beers. The honey ale — the first known beer made at the executive mansion in American history — was made with a pound of fresh honey from the White House’s bees, and future brews may even feature hops grown at the White House garden.

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