Obama will tout the write-offs Wednesday when he unveils a $180-billion stimulus package. But he isn't likely to back down on his stand on continuing the marginal tax rate cuts only for households and businesses earning less than $250,000, analysts said.
Economists and business trade groups see Obama's proposal as giving a modest boost to the economy, not as having the major effect that would come from removing the uncertainty about the Bush tax cuts. Those cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, and Republicans are insisting that unless they be allowed to continue in their entirety, there would be further damage to the weak recovery.
"He's not really addressing the big issues," Brad Benson, president of Squires-Belt Material Co. in San Diego, said of Obama. Benson does welcome the president's proposal on depreciation costs, which would save businesses $200 billion over two years.
"I think it's maybe a small step in the right direction, but as a manufacturer, I'm more concerned with the tax-cut issue," said Benson, whose company supplies drywall and other building supplies for commercial and residential construction.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, said Obama's proposal would help the recovery but was not "a game changer."
He estimated the plan would add 0.2 percentage point in 2011 to gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the country.
"I think we're talking tens of thousands of jobs, not hundreds of thousands of jobs. It's helpful but it's small," Zandi said. "Far and away the most important policy item on the agenda is what to do about the expiring tax cuts."
Although Obama wants to limit the continuation of the tax cuts to those earning less than $250,000, the administration wants to give businesses a break on making capital purchases sooner rather than later.
In a speech in Cleveland, Obama is expected to propose allowing businesses to write off many of the capital purchases in the first year instead of depreciating the costs over several years. The new accelerated depreciation would last through 2011 in hopes it would entice businesses to make large capital purchases that would help stimulate the economy and increase jobs.
The proposal is part of a package that includes $50 billion in spending on roads, railroads and airport runways and a $100-billion expansion and extension of the expired research-and-development tax credit, which also would be made permanent rather than extended for a year or two at a time.
To help stimulate the economy in 2008 and 2009, businesses were allowed to write off 50% of many capital purchases the first year they were made. There has been bipartisan support for continuing that tax break through this year, and a provision to do that is in a $50-billion small-business-lending bill pending in the Senate.
All require congressional approval, which will be difficult in the few remaining weeks before the November midterm elections as Democrats and Republicans bitterly point fingers at each other for the nation's economic troubles. Key Republicans, including some who have pushed for the accelerated business write-offs, slammed Obama's plans Tuesday as falling short because they did not address the expiring Bush tax cuts.
While calling the write-off plan "a serious proposal Congress should consider," Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) questioned whether the benefit would be "outweighed" by tax increases.
Obama wants to make it more attractive for businesses to make large purchases by boosting the first-year tax write-off to cover the entire cost.
"It builds off of an effort to get capital off the sidelines and into the economy," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The White House said the change would benefit 1.5 million corporations and "several million individuals" who make business investments.
The change to tax law would encourage businesses to make purchases now because they can recoup the cost through tax breaks quicker. Though the move would save businesses $200 billion in the short term, it would cost the government only $30 billion in lost revenue over the next decade because those expenses would have been written off over time anyway.
"It is an effort to encourage people to buy now as opposed to take a wait-and-see approach for the next six months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months," said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Assn., which represents the aviation industry and supports the write-off proposal.
Inspired by hotelier Ivanka Trump's travels to Istanbul, the hammams -- with their domed ceilings and mosaic-tiled walls -- afford spa-goers the rare opportunity to experience the traditional social and cultural bathing rituals of Turkey and the Middle East. The Turkish Hammam treatment features an oil-based castile soap applied with a traditional handmade Kesa mitt while the spa-goer lies on a heated 120 degree belly stone of Calacatta marble. The treatment is designed to exfoliate the entire body, which immediately increases the detoxification and rejuvenation of the skin. This is followed by cleansing techniques to remove impurities and hydrate the skin, while the dedicated Hammam Attaché pours a combination of hot and cold water over the skin to aid in tightening and toning the entire body and to leave it feeling like silk.
Occupying more than 11,000 square feet over two floors, The Spa at Trump® at Trump SoHo offers a peaceful setting to reenergize and rejuvenate in therapy rooms, private spa suites, and indoor and outdoor relaxation lounges. The entire experience is enhanced by the Moroccan décor and separate hammams for men and women -- the only luxury spa of its kind to be created with this Middle Eastern bathing tradition in New York City.
Emma Stone has an incredible career ahead of her. Not only is she beautiful, but she's a rising talent, as evidenced in both Superbad and Zombieland. The problem? Playing the co-star in all of her features thus far. That changes with Easy A.
In the upcoming feature, which will be released September 17th, with the exception of a single flashback, Stone is in every scene of the film and absolutely shines, as you can see in the eight clips seen below. Be it interacting with her parents (played by the awesome Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson), singing in the shower, or punching a gay guy in the stomach to simulate orgasm, she demonstrates a charisma that's going to keep her around for films to come.
detail: buy marble mosaic online
A city that knows trauma
In a recent survey of residents by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than two-thirds say the city is going in the right direction, but more than a third say their lives are still "very" or "somewhat" disrupted. A quarter of respondents say they are considering moving away, some of them the same folk who fought to rebuild after the storm. That's double the number from a few years ago, perhaps reflecting the ongoing psychological toll of coping with a work in progress.
New Orleans is a city that speaks with authority about post-traumatic stress, in part because the trauma is not entirely post. Throw in the BP oil spill and a national recession that couldn't have hit at a worse time, add a dash of feeling that America has mostly forgotten the city's anguish and a pinch of daily visual insults from the omnipresent blight, and the recipe should add up to something immensely sour. For some it does. One writer who went to college here, stayed on after graduation and left after Katrina, summarized her despair as simply as a writer should.
"I felt guilty about leaving," she said. "I still do. How is the city going to come back if we abandon it? But still I left. Why? Just look at it. It's depressing."
But there is another side, a different view, something that should be surprising but somehow is not. New Orleans today also is a place where, perhaps for the first time, many residents are speaking aggressively and optimistically about the future. Longstanding complaints - endemic political corruption, terrible public schools, rampant crime, health care woes, a lack of economic opportunity - are being addressed with something that looks curiously like a strategy. Many of the guiding principles are laid out in the Unified New Orleans Plan, and unity was a word not often associated with the city.
"New Orleanians after Katrina said we are not going to take it anymore," said Allison Plyer, an analyst and deputy director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which has monitored progress every year since the storm and puts together an oft-cited annual summary. "We are not going to put up with corruption, not going to put up with bad schools, not going to have to go to the emergency room for health care. It really gave people the determination to change things we had become sort of fatalistic about. We are not going to be like we were."
A reawakened loyalty
There's a popular term for it - civic engagement - and its viral spread soon overwhelmed generations of apathy and cynicism. In the party-down days of the Big Easy, Jenni Evans' evenings were her own. Now they belong to meetings of this group or that. There is a sense of urgency spurred by the simple fact that community comeback depends on common effort.
"We had meetings before," said Evans, a 45-year-old mother of two girls, "but now people go to them."
After Katrina, some pundits wondered aloud whether New Orleans was all but dead, or whether it was even worth rebuilding. Now such talk seems silly, not just because its beloved Saints are Super Bowl champions, and not just because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a $14 billion project, its largest ever, to protect the city from future storm surges. Katrina's wake exposed a vein of intense loyalty that runs deep, in many cases generations deep. Allowing the city to die or worse, contract into a living tourist attraction — the seedy sister of Colonial Williamsburg — was unthinkable.
Evans decided to rebuild her home in the Broadmoor neighborhood. An early-childhood specialist, she was forced to temporarily relocate to Houston. But there was not a moment of doubt of what she would do. Evans is a native and her extended family — including mother, sister and brother — live in the same neighborhood. Four close friends moved away, adding to her pain, but she would not join them.
"If you love it, if it's in your blood, there's nowhere else to go," said Evans, whose like-minded neighbors helped make Broadmoor one of the city's great post-storm success stories. "There was a ferocious pride in being back. … We were going to rebuild this city. It was us against the world."
There were allies, of course. Medication helped with depression — "I think the whole city was on Lexapro or Prozac," she said — and faith-based groups from around the country mobilized, especially during the early days of clean-up and reconstruction. There also was a curious breed of newcomer, people who saw the catastrophe on TV and came not to capitalize on misfortune and make a buck, but with a sense of mission.
Talking about the future
Charting New Orleans' economic destiny is a task as vexing as charting the Mississippi River a century ago. Residents, however, seem to accept that, and economic issues were near the bottom of their concerns in the Kaiser opinion survey. As the head of one local foundation put it, the city never has defined its greatness in economic terms and is not about to start.
But the worn old city below sea level will trumpet, at times quite literally, a heritage and history and culture unmatched among Sun Belt boomtowns. To those whose lasting image of the place is a sea of brown water obscuring all but the rooftops, it still proudly proclaims a strong pulse and its singular place on the roster of U.S. cities. And its people really do talk about the future, every day, which is tangible progress given the years of tears.
"The question is not whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, but whether the glass is filling or draining," said Michael Hecht, president of New Orleans Inc., the city's economic development promoter. "I'm pretty certain the glass is filling. That doesn't mean we don't have further to go, because we certainly do."
Change in the city's face
The population of New Orleans is still down about 100,000 from what it was before Katrina. One upshot, arguably good from an economic development viewpoint, is that many of the people who have not returned are poor, which means that overall poverty has been reduced as a result. It also means the minority poor of the city suffered a disproportionate blow. The city's near-term recovery is not likely to ease their pain or end diaspora.
Black minister Kojo Livingston, a New Orleans native, believes too many people, especially those who have seen their political power rise, are happy with a revised demographic picture that lessens the political role of African-Americans. Mitch Landrieu was the first white mayor elected since his father left the post in 1978.
"Part of the magic of living in New Orleans was learning how to deal with all kinds of different folks," Livingston said. "It has lost the flavor that made that city unique. Without that, it's going to be a shadow of what it was."
Livingston was forced to move to Shreveport after the storm. He returns frequently, and recently drove his daughter to the city's Dillard University, a historically black school, for her first semester of college. He vows to come back — "No matter how long it takes," Livingston said — but as he drove through his old neighborhoods, including the Lower Ninth Ward, his heart sank.
"To go through some of the places now and see what's there and not there, you have to take a deep breath. We were almost in tears," he said.
No one suggests that New Orleans, for all its progress, is over the hump. Plyer goes so far as to call recovery an "artificial concept" and says the city might never regain its pre-Katrina profile. She reminds all she speaks to of the scope of the disaster: 80 percent of the city under water, including more than 130,000 homes and untold commercial and public buildings. Many still lie in ruin: a block of homes bearing the spray paint of rescue workers, a library gutted and empty, a shopping center showing no visible damage yet abandoned.
On top of that, the city has a $68 million budget shortfall, which has necessitated employee furloughs and austerity measures. Federal money is still coming in, and it will help fund some of the 100 new projects Mayor Landrieu announced recently. But some needed items were whacked because the latest $1.2 billion allotment only goes so far for a city once perched close to ruin.
No lack of human capital
Last week Landrieu, who replaced Ray Nagin in February, took a walking tour of some of the blighted remains of Central City, a pie slice just west of the central business district. Landrieu offered practical suggestions on how to coordinate reconstruction projects to maximize their impact. But he doesn't have the wherewithal to make them all happen.
What the new mayor does have is a city that steadfastly believes in itself, in its uniqueness, in its reason to be. The billions still needed for capital projects to make New Orleans right may prove an insurmountable hurdle. But the human capital is another story.
Whatever else might be said about the people of New Orleans, those who stayed stepped up. And those who moved here in the face of tragedy, or because of it, were an unexpected bonus. Cecile Hardy, who grew up in New Orleans but did not return after college, was living in the San Francisco Bay Area when Katrina hit. Young and upwardly mobile, she had a great life as a designer for the Gap and later Williams-Sonoma.