Big money: Working closely with President-elect Barack Obama, House Democrats today called for $825 billion in federal spending and tax cuts to revive the economy, with strong emphasis on energy, education, health care and jobs-producing highway construction. The legislation calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years—totals certain to change as the measure works its way through Congress. The measure calls for $90 billion to help the states meet the rising cost of providing health care for the poor in the recession, and another $39 billion to subsidize coverage by out-of-work wage-earners who cannot afford the cost of their employer-covered health care. More than $100 billion is ticketed for education, including money for school districts to shield them from the effects of state cutbacks in services. Democratic leaders in Congress have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama to sign by mid-February.
Drop in gas prices fuels fall: Another huge plunge in energy costs sent wholesale inflation down for a fifth straight month in December, closing out a year in which prices dropped by the largest amount in seven years. Wholesale prices fell by 1.9% in December, the Labor Department said today. That was just below the 2% decline that economists expected. For the year, the government said wholesale prices fell by 0.9%, the first annual decline since prices dropped by 1.6% in 2001. That also was a year in which the country was in a recession. By contrast, inflation at the wholesale level soared by 6.2% in 2007. Until a few months ago, there were fears that a relentless surge in energy prices could set off a wider bout of inflation in the economy.