The stimulus package dominated the fourth week of newspaper coverage of the new Obama administration. Like the second and third week of the Grand Rapids Press’ coverage, the stimulus plan dominated the coverage, but in week four it was the only story to that was covered.
The Press ran a total of 12 stories during the fourth week of the Obama administration and every one of them was related to the stimulus package. Some stories dealt with details of the plan, some on the partisan positions, some presented the long term cost of the stimulus, and one story touched on the issue of public trust and government spending.
On February 12, the Press ran a story from the Los Angeles Times that was one of the first articles to provide some information on how the public might benefit from the stimulus package. The story mentioned that first time home buyers would get a break, people making less than $100,000 would get a tax credit, those receiving unemployment would receive an additional $25 a week, and college students would receive additional benefits.
On February 10 and 11, there were consecutive articles about the “real” cost of the bailout and the stimulus package. The February 10 article cites Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner who claims that the total cost will come to roughly $1.5 trillion, while the February 11 article puts the total closer to $3 trillion. Naomi Klein, in a speech given at MSU on February 17 said that according to Bloomberg News the real cost of the bailout/stimulus is actually $10.5 trillion. The stories in the Press don’t really explore where all the cost has come from and how the government plans to pay this additional debt.
The Press did run an interesting article from the Washington Post on February 9 that stated that even though the stimulus plan has some oversight components built into it, it may be difficult to track “wasteful spending.” However, much of the original Washington Post story was omitted in the Press version, particularly examples of government waste that have been documented by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.
Executive Pay and Nominee Rejection
On February 15, the Press ran an Associated Press story on the executive pay restrictions that the new administration has placed on companies that have benefited from the bailout. Obama “set a $500,000 cap on pay for top executives and limited bonuses or additional compensation to restricted stock that could only be claimed after the firm had paid the government back.” The AP story presented the executive pay restrictions as a victory for the new administration, but the reality was that the executive pay restrictions were not included in the final draft of the stimulus plan, as reported in the Huffington Post. The only restrictions that were included in the final draft were limitations of executive bonuses, not their salaries.
On February 13 the Press ran a New York Times article about the last Obama pick to run the Commerce Department and his rejection of that position. The Times story stated, “Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew Thursday as the nominee for commerce secretary, saying he had irresolvable conflicts with President Obama over his economic stimulus plan.” The Times article frames the Gregg rejection in purely partisan terms, but the Republican Senator may have been using the nomination for other purposes. Independent journalist Dave Lindorff argues that Gregg used the confrontation with Obama over his nomination as a way of getting the Democrats to water down the stimulus plan.
The remaining stories from the fourth week of coverage focused on the stimulus vote (February 12 & 14) and a story announcing when Obama would sign the stimulus legislation (February 15).