Obama heads west to sell stimulus

President Barack Obama heads west Tuesday to sign his huge stimulus bill with a flourish meant to be a rare bright moment for the US economy, and to confront a punishing wave of home foreclosures.

After less than a day back in Washington following a weekend home in Chicago, Obama will head to the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado, then set course for Arizona to mine a new seam of heartland support for his economic rescue plans.

The president will sign the 787-billion-dollar stimulus bill, which passed Congress last week, in Denver, Colorado, the city where he raised the hopes of millions when accepting the Democratic nomination last year.

He will do so after touring a solar panel installation project in an event designed to show how billions of dollars in funding for alternative energy including in the stimulus package could launch a new generation economy.

Later, Obama will set course on Air Force One, to the desert state of Arizona, home to his defeated Republican election rival John McCain, where he will Wednesday unveil a plan to tackle the mortgage foreclosure crisis.

Obama will unveil his initiative after two US banks — JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup — and mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agreed last week to suspend home foreclosures.

Along with moratoriums, other possible ideas being floated would help homeowners write down annual mortgage repayments to about one-third of their salary.

The idea is to help homeowners before they get in trouble and avoid thousands of foreclosures which are hammering the already debt-laden balance sheets of the finance industry and further rocking the economy.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week unveiled a plan that could use as much as 2.5 trillion dollars to aid banks, unfreeze consumer credit markets and stem the home mortgage crisis.

But with nearly 10,000 families a day reportedly losing their homes, only a sketchy public-private investment fund was cited under Geithner’s plan to buy up mortgage-backed securities held by banks.

The White House, fresh from a bruising battle to drive the stimulus plan through Congress last week, is scheduling Obama’s trips in a bid to show he is far more in tune with hopes of Americans than warring Washington politicians.

Last week, Obama built backing behind his stimulus plan by appealing to the same voters in Illinois, Indiana and Florida who underwrote his massive election win in November.

The move also appeared to be an attempt to counter a political head of steam built up inside Washington’s echo chamber politics by Republicans who refused Obama’s olive branch and largely rejected the stimulus plan.

The White House is signaling that it will continue to use such a strategy as he seeks to implement the stimulus bill, looks to rescue the dormant housing market and pursues other policy priorities.

"It’s always important to remember that the chatter in this town is not the chatter around kitchen tables in this country," senior Obama aide David Axelrod said on NBC show "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

As long as we listen to kitchen table chatter, I think we’re going to stay on a truer course," Axelrod said.

Obama will also Tuesday learn more about another crisis wracking his administration — the fate of the devastated "Big Three" auto firms.

General Motors and Chrysler must report to the Treasury on Tuesday on their restructuring plans, a condition of a 17.4-billion-dollar auto industry bailout funded by taxpayers.

On Monday, the administration confirmed that it would not appoint a single "car czar" to oversee the restructuring, but would instead form a presidential task force to steer restructuring of the crippled industry.

The White House said the multi-agency operation would report to Geithner and top presidential economic aide Lawrence Summers, confirming that no single "car czar" would shepherd the ailing industry.

After returning from Arizona, Obama will on Thursday make his first trip abroad as president, to Canada, a one-day trip which will include talks in Ottawa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.