Inauguration Day

Published on: 11:49AM Jan 20, 2009
By Jim Wiesemeyer

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

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After inaugural balls comes the hard part: governing

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Barack Obama will today be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president and its first African-American commander in chief.

In his inaugural address, Obama will touch on themes of responsibility, accountability and personal sacrifice.

Congress this week will continue work on a massive economic stimulus measure. House Democrats last week unveiled their $825 billion proposal, with $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax breaks. Several House committees will hold markup sessions on the package this week.

The Senate, meanwhile, will release details of its stimulus package (S 1) this week.

The Senate beginning today will vote on several of Obama's Cabinet nominees, including USDA Secretary-designate Tom Vilsack.

Comments: I have personally attended two inaugurals -- one for former President Ronald Reagan and one for former President Bill Clinton. I am currently in Wisconsin, far from what will likely be the biggest crowd ever for an inauguration.

Today is a day of celebration, not only for Obama and his supporters, but for once again showing that a country can have a peaceful power exchange.

After today, the hard task of governing begins for Obama, his Cabinet, and the Democratic controlled Congress. It won't be easy. Let's hope Obama is the leader he showed he could be during the presidential campaign.

Many issues confront our nation's capital, the most important being to stem the downturn in the economy and to stop the job losses. Both will take time. Up front and center is the economic stimulus package, which will likely eclipse the House's price tag of $825 billion before it is all over. There will be a lot of funding and incentives in the coming package for agriculture and rural interests, including alternative energy, rural health care, equity in broadband technology for the rural sector, billions for food stamp funding, and tax incentives including equipment depreciation bonus extension. And there is a late push to get some incentives for the dairy industry in the package to help cope with rapidly declining prices and bulging supplies. The stumbling block for that could be that any dairy aid would be seen as an "earmark" and Obama has said that will not be in the stimulus plan.

Trade policy issues will hit the Obama administration from day one -- including several spats with the European Union (beef hormones, the EU's ban on U.S. chicken imports). And it will be interesting to see how long the Democratic trifecta in Congress and the White House will take to get a more trade friendly policy with Cuba, an island 90 miles off our eastern shore.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.