The Economy Today: Fares and Fires

Headlines from Arkansas, Delaware, New York City, and elsewhere

Both USA Today and The Wall Street Journal see signs of how the recession is affecting big businesses. In the WSJ, Target will expand its food offerings to attract more customers, and though the discount retailer is known for “fashionable merchandise and jazzy marketing savvy,” its strategy is moving it closer to Wal-Mart.

Baseball is also taking a hit in the recession. Stadiums are luring sports fans with all sorts incentives: “In Cleveland, they are giving away bedroom slippers. In Houston, young professionals are encouraged to watch an Astros game at the tequila bar while looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. And in South Florida, being unemployed will get you four free Marlins tickets to selected games.” And, in Washington, the federal government faces a $1.8 trillion budget gap. That’s almost 13 percent of the national GDP, but, according to The New York Times, economists believe the shortfall shouldn’t exceed 3 percent.

How does the economy play in the New York Post? Fun with the headlines, as usual. Mafia princess Victoria Gotti will lose her home in foreclosure: “NOW SHE’S EVICT-ORIA GOTTI,” says the Post. The reality TV star owes more that $600,000 to the bank. In other city news, the proposed tax increase may be a boon for waiters, since so many diners just double the tax when they tip. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing an increase from 8.375 to 8.875 percent. And the city transportation authority voted to raise public transit fares: a single ride on the subway will cost $2.25 after June 28. A monthly MetroCard will go up to $89.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, a local contractor in charge of a major infrastructure project has filed for bankruptcy, the Arizona Daily Sun reports. The company is confident that it will complete the project while undergoing Chapter 11 proceedings. The Associated Press in Arizona finds that the state’s wildfire budget will stay the same, despite the tough economic times. The Forest Service has alloted $93 million to fight fires in Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas.

Ohio representative Mike Foley tells the Dayton Daily News that he’s disappointed that he couldn’t get support for judges to play a role in foreclosure proceedings as described in the new House bill aimed at curbing foreclosures. Foley is chairman of the House Housing and Urban Revitalization Committee which is scheduled to vote on the bill today. Foley and his supporters believed that judges could help borrowers negotiate fairer terms on predatory mortgages. If the recession does drive people to drink, then Ohio residents who are flocking to bartending schools may be onto something. One Ohio school has seen enrollment increase 20 percent.

Delaware’s home builders are fighting new energy codes that are designed to make homes more efficient, but drive up the cost of construction, The News Journal reports. Currently, Delaware abides by ten-year-old codes, putting the state behind many around the country. If the measure is adopted, the state will be eligible for $24 million in stimulus funds. The bill requires that “all new, detached one- and two-story homes to meet the International Energy Conservation Code adopted by the International Code Council this year. The code requires more air-resistant windows and higher-quality insulation for walls, floors and basements. At least half of the permanent lighting fixtures must use high-efficiency bulbs,” among other specifications.

Not many signs of hope in Hope, Arkansas. Gas prices in the area are climbing as summer approaches. And, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 has passed, but a provision to designate Bill Clinton’s boyhood home as a historical landmark did not succeed in the legislation. If it had passed, Hope would have received money to improve the facilities and grounds, and to hire staff to oversee the facility and develop more exhibits.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.