COMMENTS: Check out the Recovery Website

One way or the other, the ailing economy topped the news agenda. NBC and CBS led with the plight of Detroit's automobile industry as both General Motors and Chrysler submitted so-called viability reports to the Treasury Department in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. ABC led with the fiscal stimulus legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law at a ceremony in Denver. ABC's newscast was anchored by substitute Diane Sawyer. The $787bn spending bill was Story of the Day.

The ingredient elements of the spending bill--$287bn in tax cuts, $140bn in aid to states, $120bn for infrastructure and so on--had already been reported so, besides the ceremony, what was newsworthy about the stimulus legislation was how it would be monitored. "Republicans across the nation vowed to analyze every dollar of spending in search of waste and fraud," CBS' Chip Reid reported. All three White House correspondents publicized the White House's own monitoring Website NBC's Chuck Todd visited and was not impressed: it "lacks specific details--even under a learn more tab the same numbers are simply presented in a different sleek graphic form."

ABC's Jake Tapper promised that "the most immediate effect" of the stimulus will be felt by the unemployed in the form of jobless benefits and copayments for health insurance premiums. NBC's George Lewis illustrated how state governments need the funds. California has a $40bn projected deficit and the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tristate deficit will total $27bn. "In California they are calling it a fiscal disaster," with 20,000 state workers facing layoffs. ABC's David Muir illustrated how municipalities need the funds. He covered the same $150bn list of 18,750 projects from the nation's mayors that his colleague Lisa Stark covered two weeks ago. Back then Stark was sarcastic, joking about aquatic centers and golf courses and butterfly gardens. Muir treated the list with more respect, singling out school boilers and water pumps and airport runways and flood control.

For NBC's In Depth, Lisa Myers itemized conservative arguments against the measure. She came up with four separate complaints. First, some of the spending represents the porkbarrel priorities of powerful Democrats, like high speed rail in Harry Reid's home state of Nevada or so-called clean coal in Richard Durbin's home state of Illinois. Second, too much of the spending is structured as non-specific block grants for education, healthcare and community development rather than being itemized. Third, the demand-side argument that federal deficit spending per se constitutes stimulus is incorrect. Conservatives, Myers noted, argue that only "properly designed" spending does the trick. Fourth, $787bn is just too much money.


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