(CNN Student News) -- January 28, 2009
Meeting on the Hill - Learn about a sort of "first date" between President Obama and GOP leaders.
A Money Matter - Explore the pros and pork included in a massive, economic stimulus proposal.
Fewer Teens Working - Hear experts' concerns that the value of work could be lost among some teens.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It's all about the economy, taking center stage in today's edition of CNN Student News. From the CNN Center, I'm Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: First up, a "first date" of sorts for President Obama and congressional Republicans. The president made his way to Capitol Hill yesterday to try and sell GOP leaders on his $825 billion economic stimulus plan. But they're not buying, at least for now. Republican leaders said they appreciated the meeting, but they don't agree with President Obama on how some parts of the plan are structured. The president acknowledged that Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on how to stimulate the economy, but he said the country's citizens expect a solution.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The American people expect action. They want us to put together a recovery package that puts people back to work, that creates investments that assure our long-term energy independence, an effective health care system, an education system that works. They want our infrastructure rebuilt, and they want it done wisely so that we're not wasting taxpayer money.
AZUZ: The president and Republican leaders all say they're eager to put together a stimulus package. But according to a new report - surpise, surprise - Americans aren't feeling too optimistic about the economy right now. Consumer confidence fell to around 38% this month, the lowest point in the history of the statistic. Can a stimulus plan really kickstart the economy? Allan Chernoff explores the possible impact.
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ALAN CHERNOFF, CNN REPORTER: Construction company owner Sanjeev Dhawan is hopeful President Obama's stimulus program will get through Congress quickly, so he can win new government contracts and rehire workers he's had to lay off.
SANJEEV DHAWAN, UNICORN CONSTRUCTION : Hopefully, what we're going to do is we're going to make a few phone calls and get some of those people back to work, some of those talented folks we had working for us before. Unfortunately, right now they're sitting at home.
CHERNOFF: New projects, Dhawan says, would also have him buying concrete, steel and other material and equipment.
OBAMA: We'll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects.
CHERNOFF: President Obama also hopes to improve our electricity infrastructure, computerize more medical records and upgrade hospitals. It will take months to begin putting the money to work, and most of the funding wouldn't be spent until next year and the year after, estimates the Congressional Budget Office. Even so, some economists say, Obama's plan makes sense. And with many private businesses scared to spend, they say big spending to help the economy has to come from the government. But government can do only so much if the nation's banks refuse to start lending again.
NIGEL GAULT, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT: If we get the stimulus package and it comes and goes but the financial system remains broken and the banks are still not lending, then any help that we get from the stimulus will prove short-lived.
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ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What is the nickname for political pet projects that are added to government bills? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Beef, B) Pork, C) Clam, or D) Fowl? You've got three seconds -- GO! Political pet projects are often referred to as pork. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
Too Much Pork?
AZUZ: Congress is pulling some pork out of the economic stimulus plan in an effort to make sure that the bill only funds what lawmakers consider to be "high quality" projects. So what's out? Zoos, golf courses, swimming pools. But how do you determine what qualifies as "high quality," especially in a bill that's this big? Christine Romans examines the fight to trim the fat.
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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN REPORTER: Please, please keep the pork to a minimum. 647 pages on how to spend $825 billion dollars!
KEN ROGOFF, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They're spending on infrastructure, they're spending on education, they're spending on energy. You know, certainly, they're hitting some important basics, but it's very hard to do without the pork.
ROMANS: To some, this smells like bacon, not stimulus. Up to $200 million to spruce up the National Mall. $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to replace lost philanthropy money. Democrats already backed away from $200 million in free contraception for low-income families. Republicans want more tax relief and less of what they consider pork.
REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY JR., (R) LOUISIANA: For every dollar of tax relief to small businesses, we're gonna spend $4 for re-sodding the Mall in Washington. That's not the kind of overall national stimulus we need for the economy.
ROMANS: But seeding the mall takes workers. And arts jobs are jobs nonetheless. And remember, the bill is supposed to be big and spend lots of money; that's the point. President Obama says all those billions will renovate 10,000 schools, build 3,000 miles of a new electric grid, put $25 dollars more in jobless checks and weatherize two and half million homes. To say nothing of tax cuts, bridge repair, health care, and more aid for college students. But make no mistake: any whiff of pork on this one has already become a big distraction.
MAYA MACGUINEAS, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE BUDGET: I would take those right out of the bill, because they are clearly not the most stimulative policies, but they do a whole lot to undermine the credibility of the package.
ROMANS: And credibility is critical to restoring confidence in the economy.
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Shoutout Extra Credit
NIVISON: Time for a Shoutout Extra Credit! What is the current federal minimum wage? You know what to do. Is it: A) $5.35, B) $6.20, C) $6.55 or D) $7.10? Three seconds back on the clock -- GO! The federal minimum wage is currently $6.55 an hour. It's scheduled to jump to $7.25 on July 24th. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout Extra Credit!
AZUZ: Of course, there are some exceptions, like jobs where you earn tips. But increasing numbers of teenagers aren't applying for minimum wage positions, because they're not looking for any job at all! Some experts worry that the lack of experience could have a serious impact later on in life. Ines Ferre considers whether it's a cause for concern.
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INES FERRE, CNN REPORTER: Over the past decade, more and more American teenagers have decided not to look for work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in the last 10 years, the number of 16 to 17 year olds working or looking for work decreased from 42% to 28%. The number of working teens in that age group decreased by nearly 800,000.
HARA ESTROFF MARANO, AUTHOR, NATION OF WIMPS: What you have is a number of young people whose parents don't want them to work. They want them building their portfolio to get into some brand name college, because parents are extremely anxious for the future success of their kids.
FERRE: Hara Estroff Marano, author of Nation of Wimps, says parents are raising kids to be what she calls "teacup children," brittle and breakable, too protected or busy to work. Some experts say today's parents have never known the sacrifices shared by generations before them.
LAURA LEVINE, JUMPSTART COALITION FOR PERSONAL FINANCIAL LITERACY: They are probably a generation removed from the folks who remember the Depression, remember the war, were raised in an environment of frugality and saving for the future.
FERRE: Marano's big concern is that if teenagers don't acquire job skills early on, they could be less capable of handling challenges and take fewer risks in life.
MARANO: I'm worried about them. Who is going to be the future support for our democracy? We need innovators to support the economy.
FERRE: Both experts agree that parents need to set the example, and are concerned that over the years, consumerism and instant gratification have left little room for value of work. Ines Ferre, CNN, New York.
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AZUZ: Well, most of you who are working or are planning to, write on our blog that you would get a haircut for a job interview. But not Timmy. He asks, "Why would I want to change myself? Employers shouldn't be too picky; as long as the person is skillful and brushed their teeth, should be fine." Sinjun says, "There's no way. I can't even see why I would have to do that in the first place." But Devron can. He says, "If that's what the boss wants, then do it. If not, then the next man will come and now you have no job." And David says his hair is already kind of conservative, but he would change his style: "You have to dress for the type of job you are going to apply for." Smart man!
Before We Go
AZUZ: So before we go today, how would you dress for a high-powered negotiation? Apparently like this guy. Of course, that uniform makes a little more sense when you're facing off against an eight-foot alligator. Trappers spent a couple hours trying to coax him out of that sewer drain. They even played music to try and sooth the savage beast. But before he budged, they had to take off. Turns out another gator was spotted in a nearby canal.
AZUZ: Man, talk about being swamped. That's gonna put a lid on today's show. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.