CBS: Clock is Ticking on Economy, Need ‘Stimulus’ Now

During the opening of Friday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric teased upcoming coverage of the so-called "stimulus" bill being debated in Congress: "Tonight, 13 jobs a minute disappearing...Senate moderates race to trim the stimulus package to a passable size." An image of a ticking clock appeared on screen as Couric spoke. A clip was also played of Barack Obama exclaiming: "These numbers demand action." In another clip, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked: "The world is waiting to see what we're going to do in the next 24 hours." [audio excerpt here]

Couric later reported on a possible Senate agreement regarding the legislation, portraying it as a compromise despite a lack of significant Republican support: "The Senate has reached tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package. Price tag: $780 billion, trimmed down from more than 900 billion. The compromise followed more dismal economic news." Correspondent Chip Reid continued to tout the so-called "compromise": "The deal was worked out behind closed doors by a group of about 16 moderate Republicans and Democrats, who plodded slowly through the 700 page bill line by line, looking for projects that won't do much to stimulate the economy." Neither Reid nor Couric explained that only three moderate Republican senators offered support.

Following Reid’s report, Couric asked him: "So, Chip, does today's deal mean the House and Senate will be able to compromise on a final stimulus bill, or once again will everything be back on the table?" Reid raised concerns, but only those of Democrats who wanted to spend more: "Not everything, but a whole lot. Nancy Pelosi and other liberal Democrats in the House do not like these cuts. They didn't even like the idea of trying to cut $100 billion out of this bill, much less 150 billion, and they're vigorously opposed to those cuts in education."

Couric went on to use the "dismal economic news" to stress urgency for passage of the massive spending bill: "If anything pushed the Senate to reach a deal, it was the latest numbers from the Labor Department today. They show the unemployment rate jumped in January to the highest level in 16 years, 7.6 percent, as the economy lost nearly 600,000 jobs, the worst month in 35 years." Couric also touted a CBS News poll: "...44 percent of Americans are very concerned that someone in their household will lose a job over the next year. And 94 percent believe the economy is in bad shape." The poll only allowed respondents to rank the economy as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ with no ranking in between.

Correspondent Anthony Mason reported on the unemployment numbers, after which, Couric wondered: "And, Anthony, do economists believe there's anything a stimulus package can do to stop this massive job loss even in the short term?" Mason admitted: "In the short term, no, there's nothing that's going to stop unemployment from rising sharply over the next six to eight months." But then added: "The hope is this stimulus package will level things out next year and begin to get better."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

6:30PM TEASE:

[IMAGE OF A TICKING CLOCK]

KATIE COURIC: Tonight, 13 jobs a minute disappearing.

BARACK OBAMA: These numbers demand action.

COURIC: Senate moderates race to trim the stimulus package to a passable size.

HARRY REID: The world is waiting to see what we're going to do in the next 24 hours.

6:31PM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: There's breaking news from Washington tonight. The Senate has reached tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package. Price tag: $780 billion, trimmed down from more than 900 billion. The compromise followed more dismal economic news. We'll have more about that in a moment. But first, our chief White House correspondent Chip Reid has the latest on the stimulus deal. Chip.

CHIP REID: Well, Katie, you know, the price of the stimulus deal has done nothing but go up and up and up. It was up around $930 billion. A lot of people said there's no way they'll get it down to the target of $800 billion. They exceeded that, really extraordinary by congressional standards. They're now -- they now have a tentative deal for $780 billion. We're told a lot of the cuts are from aid to the states, especially spending for education. The deal was worked out behind closed doors by a group of about 16 moderate Republicans and Democrats, who plodded slowly through the 700 page bill line by line, looking for projects that won't do much to stimulate the economy. Late today, the president sent his chief of staff, former Congressman Rahm Emanuel, to Capitol Hill to try to seal the deal. The administration also announced today that the president plans to hit the road to sell the stimulus package. On Monday and Tuesday, he will hold town meetings in Elkhart, Indiana, and Fort Myers, Florida, two cities devastated by the economy. In December 2007, the unemployment rate in Elkhart was 4.7 percent. When candidate Barack Obama visited in August 2008, it had risen to 8.9 percent.

BARACK OBAMA: And our economy, I don't have to tell you, is in turmoil.

REID: By December 2008, it had soared to a staggering 15.3 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation. In Fort Myers, Florida, the unemployment rate was 6 percent in December 2007. A year later, it was 10 percent.

ROBERT GIBBS: It's important to go directly to where people are hurting, whether it's Indiana or whether it's Florida.

REID: Now, we are told that they are probably going to get exactly the number of votes they need for this, 60 votes, and it is possible that in order to get that number they will need to get Ted Kennedy back here to vote. He is recuperating, of course, from brain cancer in Florida. Katie.

COURIC: So, Chip, does today's deal mean the House and Senate will be able to compromise on a final stimulus bill, or once again will everything be back on the table?

REID: Not everything, but a whole lot. Nancy Pelosi and other liberal Democrats in the House do not like these cuts. They didn't even like the idea of trying to cut $100 billion out of this bill, much less 150 billion, and they're vigorously opposed to those cuts in education. Katie.

COURIC: Alright, Chip Reid at the White House. Thank you, Chip. If anything pushed the Senate to reach a deal, it was the latest numbers from the Labor Department today. They show the unemployment rate jumped in January to the highest level in 16 years, 7.6 percent, as the economy lost nearly 600,000 jobs, the worst month in 35 years. A CBS News Poll out tonight finds 44 percent of Americans are very concerned that someone in their household will lose a job over the next year. And 94 percent believe the economy is in bad shape.

[ON SCREEN GRAPHIC: Concerned About Job Loss In Your Household, Very 44%, Somewhat 28%, Not at all 27%; Condition Of The Economy Good 5%, Bad 94%]

COURIC: Anthony Mason has more now on the numbing numbers.

ANTHONY MASON: In Charlotte, North Carolina, as many as 5,000 people are expected to show up over the next three days to apply for just 500 jobs at a new water park.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: For a job, I'll do back flips.

MASON: Pamela Thomas has been looking for work for six months.

PAMELA THOMAS: No, no. Everywhere is no.

MASON: The job market is collapsing. For 13 straight months now, the economy's been shedding jobs, the longest losing streak since the Depression.

OBAMA: The situation could not be more serious.

MASON: The nearly 600,000 jobs lost in January marks the biggest monthly decline in 35 years and brings the total number of jobs lost during this recession to more than three and a half million. And almost no industry has been spared. Construction lost more than 100,000 jobs last month, manufacturing more than 200,000, the service industry nearly 300,000.

MICHAEL DARDA [CHIEF ECONOMIST, MKM PARTNERS LLC]: There are only really two sectors creating jobs in this economy, and that's government and education and health care. That's it. And that's been the case for the last several months.

MASON: So many Americans have been forced to make a career change. In Sacramento, California, Isaac Tisdale, a laid-off construction worker, cashed out $6,000 from his 401(k) to pay for barber school tuition. He hopes to open his own shop.

ISAAC TISDALE: You're never going to get anywhere if you don't invest in yourself.

MASON: Even businesses once thought to be recession proof have been hit. Zack Hiwiller designed video games for Electronic Arts until he was laid off in November.

ZACK HIWILLER [UNEMPLOYED GAME DESIGNER]: You never think it's going to be you and you never think it's going to be today. And someday it is.

MASON: The size of the job losses last month surprised even most economists. And even if we begin to get a recovery later this year, many say the unemployment rate will continue to rise into next year, topping out somewhere north of 9 percent. Katie.

COURIC: And, Anthony, do economists believe there's anything a stimulus package can do to stop this massive job loss even in the short term?

MASON: In the short term, no, there's nothing that's going to stop unemployment from rising sharply over the next six to eight months. The hope is this stimulus package will level things out next year and begin to get better.

COURIC: Alright. Anthony Mason. Thank you, Anthony.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC