Signed, Sealed, Delivered
To introduce a concerned public to the $787 billion federal economic stimulus?officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009?the White House has launched a new website (recovery.gov) that explains the ins and outs of the massive economic rescue plan. Visitors can also read the full text of the bill, which President Barack Obama signed on Feb. 17. Though many federal agencies as well as state and local governments will get billions of dollars to spend on infrastructure, it will take time for the stimulus to turn into jobs and funded projects. Click here for a timeline of how things may play out over the coming months.
President Obama, who talked at length during his campaign about creating a new energy policy and forcing the country to become more energy efficient, caused a national stir in late January when he ordered the Energy Department to draft new rules for the energy efficiency of appliances and light bulbs. No word yet on when those new rules will be finalized or made public, though Obama did pledge to be fully compliant with them this year.
The Obama administration is also hatching a new energy policy for the country. While the subject is crucial to future U.S. prosperity and is a high priority for the new administration, it has to take a back burner to the economy, and perhaps healthcare reform as well, says Christian Weller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Unless gasoline prices skyrocket this summer (as they did last summer), Weller says, the Obama team will likely focus publicly on developing its healthcare program and then getting that program passed. If the administration were to push its energy policy as well, it could lose political steam around both issues. Besides, Weller says, the investments in energy efficiency contained within the stimulus package should mollify critics until the full energy plan is unveiled, which Weller does not see happening in 2009. "They can say, 'Look, we're already doing something. While we're figuring out what the grand plan is, we're already going in the right direction and putting more into energy efficiency,'" Weller says. "It's possible Obama will send some of those signals in the budget." The federal budget is being worked on and is expected to be announced on Feb. 26. Click here to learn more about Obama's campaign thoughts on energy.
President Obama has made good on one campaign promise, appointing Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr. as White House director of urban affairs on Feb. 19. Derek Douglas, Washington counsel to New York Gov. David Paterson, was appointed as special assistant to Carrión. Carrión will report directly to Obama and will play a primarily coordination role, with some policy development, says Weller. The Office of Urban Affairs is charged with investing in urban areas to spur employment and housing opportunities. Coordinating investments by various agencies and government entities into a cohesive urban development plan, and making sure government money is being spent wisely, will be the office's primary role and will include everything from investments in transportation, housing, schools, hospitals, and job programs to adult education and to more math and science being taught in schools, Weller says.