Consumer economics are big news in the national papers this morning. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration may create a new government commission charged with protecting consumers who use financial products such as credit cards and mutual funds. Although the Securities and Exchange Commission already covers some of this terrain, the new watchdog would focus wholly on the front-end consumer. The New York Times analyzes the credit-card reform bill that passed earlier this week. Although it was hailed as a victory for cardholders, “the card companies have been threatening to cut rewards programs sharply to make up for revenue lost because of the new restrictions,” but that may just “saber rattling,” the Times opines. And, USA Today reveals that the auto industry and researchers are raising fears that the new mileage standards imposed by the Obama administration will result in auto manufacturers making smaller cars that are less safe.
In the local papers, states are still doing battle over the stimulus. In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford vetoed the state budget because it contained stimulus funds, and in Colorado, the first highway dollars are going to work to resurface a half-mile of road in Denver.
Transparency is the name of the game in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press announces the creation of a Web site that will help Michigan residents keep track of how stimulus dollars are spent in their state. Michigan will receive $7.5 billion over two years, and that money can be followed at www.michigan.gov/recovery.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia will seek stimulus funds to expand the state’s broadband coverage in rural areas. But so far, projects haven’t even reach the planning stages. As of now, “the state’s technology group has already set up a Web site (www.georgiabroadband.net) for city and county governments, companies and nonprofits to post their ideas. The site has 85 potential projects so far, ranging from wireless Internet access in public parks to adding broadband in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn and West End neighborhoods.”
As expected, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has vetoed the proposed budget, Charleston’s Post and Courier reports. Sanford wants to combine stimulus and state funds to pay down South Carolina’s debt. Unless this happens, he’s refusing to accept any of the stimulus dollars. It’s unclear how this impasse will be resolved. The legislature could override Sanford, but for now the votes aren’t there.
Colorado is launching its first stimulus-funded highway project. Denver will spend about $400,000 to resurface half a mile of roadway. There are two other projects in the pipeline, according to the Denver Post: highway repairs and road resurfacing around Denver. The first project has been a success so far because the winning contractor’s bid came in under budget, and this has spurred hope that competitive bidding could stretch stimulus dollars further than expected.
The Baltimore Sun examines how stimulus dollars allocated for scientific research has inspired a flurry of grant applications. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland have been “working overtime recently, putting in hundreds of grant requests in hopes of grabbing some of the $13 billion in stimulus money set aside for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.” One project has already secured funding. Antonia Tolson, a student at Maryland’s pharmacy school, will receive $50,000 “to study the interaction between methadone and drugs to treat illnesses such as HIV and Hepatitis C.”Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.