by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
February 18, 2009
OBAMA SIGNS $787-BILLION STIMULUS PACKAGE IN STRUGGLING DENVER
DENVER -- Hoping to jump-start the American economy and restore sagging consumer and corporate confidence, President Barack Obama today signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is, in his words, "the most sweeping economic recovery act in our history."
Back in Denver, Colo., for the first time since his nomination here at the Democratic National Convention last year, President Obama set the wheels in motion to spend more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars of government money to "create or save three and a half-million jobs in the next two years, doing the work America needs done in critical areas."
The same brilliant azure sky that welcomed the candidate illuminated a greyer and more tired-looking President just a month into his first term. To a reporter who saw him often opn the campaign trail, there seemed to be new lines etched into his face and a few specks of grey newly appearing at his temples.
The bright sun provided a promising backdrop, however, especially to the many solar energy company representatives who were on hand in the belief they will be one of the bill's major recipients.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon to a select group of political notables and invitees at the Denver Nature & Science Museum, the President claimed "broad support from the Democrats and Republicans, from mayors and governors."
He never used the word "bipartisan", and no Republicans were introduced along with the entire Colorado Democratic delegation. The numbers belied his words, however, as Republicans almost unanimously voted against the bill last week.
"Help is on the way," echoed former U.S. Senator and newly appointed Interior Sec. Ken Salazar.
The state's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter thanked President Obama for "the millions of jobs that will be created by investing in transportation, energy and other infrastructure projects. This is how we rebuild America," Ritter said.
After the President spoke, Vice-President Joe Biden sought to assure American taxpayers that the bill would not benefit only the poor.
"We will make sure the American middle class will not be left behind," he promised.
"These tax cuts will have no value," she
President Obama noted that "one-third of the stimulus package" will take the form of tax cuts going to the middle class. "We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time, and that's why we are here today."
The President cautioned Americans not to expect immediate relief from the barrage of bad news bombarding them every day. The warning seemed approproate on a day when the stock market extended its huge losses by 297 points, while General Motors and others announced new rounds of layoffs. Presidential spokesman on the major news shows have begun to indicate that the package not only aims to create jobs, but to save many that are now in danger of being lost.
Denver was an apt choice for the signing of bill, as it a city where mryiad home foreclosures are sapping tex revenues, and layoff and plant closures are leaving many helpless. The bill contains money for states hit hard by declining revenues and new budget shortfalls, and $4 billion more for crippled automakers - even as GM CEO Rick Wagoner told a crowded press conference that the company's strategic options include a possible bankruptcy.
"We are just beginning to create jobs," the President warned. "This is only the first step to set our economy on firmer ground.
"The road to recovery will not be straight," he said. "There will be slippage along the way. There will be hazards and reverses, but," he vowed, "we will leave the struggling economy behind us."
Signing the landmark bill in Washington would certainly have cost less and used a lot less energy, but the Colorado venue was a deliberate choice.
Freshman Congressman Jared Polis (D-4) said he thought the President picked Colorado because "we are the real America, the symbol of the new West." The Boulder, Colo., millionaire noted the state's "cutting-edge scientific advances in solar and wind energy.
"I think the President wanted to focus on this," he said.
Most inside the Museum were wildly supportive and enthusiastic, but as always, a few skeptics braved a cold wind to protest outside.
Alison Kalinsky of Thornton, Colo., braved the gusts outside to hold up her sign protesting the bill.
"These tax cuts will have no value," she criticized. "There was too much of a rush to pass this and get this past us. I could do a lot better by myself."
Erma Bingham of Denver, an Obama supporter during the election and a volunteer in his campaign, hoped "some parts (of the bill) are going to be good. I'm hopeful it will trickle down to some of these homeowners in trouble."
Colo. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-6) issued a statement slamming the "so-called stimulus" package. "Now that the stimulus bill has passed, my hope is that the President will now focus on inspiring confidence in the economy instead of the fear he promoted in order to get it passed."
The President signed the bill on a formal desk borrowed from the bedroom of August Ritter, the Governor's son. Mr. Obama used 10 pens to sign the bill and passed them out to officials.
AR Correspondent Ted Manna is based in Denver. His son, Tony, 14, contributed photos for this report.