When Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he will place his left hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible.
Much has been made of the Lincoln connection, with the first black man assuming the presidency in the 200th anniversary of Honest Abe's birthday. The historic alignment has occasioned renewed spasms of idolatrous odes to "The Great Emancipator."
But before we're all swept away in a paroxysm of national ecstasy, a few inconvenient truths must be noted about "Honest Abe."
The nation's unemployment rate bolted to 7.2 percent in December, the highest level in 16 years, as nervous employers slashed 524,000 jobs, capping one of the worst years in modern history for American workers.
While most people in a position of power agree an economic stimulus plan is needed, some are questioning whether or not it will work. The nation doesn't even have a stimulus plan yet and some economists are raising red flags.
Talk about raising on the President-elect's parade.
Pink slips are piling higher as companies scramble to cut costs even deeper to survive the country's economic and financial storms.
Just days into the new year, managed care provider Cigna Corp., aluminum producer Alcoa Inc., data-storage company EMC Corp. and computer products maker Logitech International were among those announcing layoffs to cope with a recession that has just entered its second year. The flurry of job cuts suggest the employment picture will remain grim this year.
The United States and its partners have shortchanged Afghanistan by focusing on short-term goals pursued without a cohesive strategy or a clear understanding of the way the poor, decentralized country works, an independent study concludes.
The incoming Obama administration should refocus the U.S. war and rebuilding effort in Afghanistan and think of the project as the work of at least a decade, according to the report compiled by the United States Institute of Peace.
On a typical weekday, close to 2 million people commute to the nation's capital, snarling the highways and packing subway trains and buses during peak hours.
Now imagine doubling, or tripling, that for the inauguration.
"I don't want in any way to discourage anyone," said District of Columbia City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. "I just don't want them to come and be completely shocked by what they find."
Motorists are driving less and buying less gasoline, which means fuel taxes aren't raising enough money to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.
That has the federal commission that oversees financing for transportation talking about increasing the federal fuel tax.
A 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is being urged by the commission to finance highway construction and repair until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.
It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?
But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.
"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.
The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.
Crisscrossing the country in corporate jets may no longer fly in Detroit after car executives got a dressing down from Congress. But on Wall Street, the coveted executive perk has hardly been grounded.
Six financial firms that received billions in bailout dollars still own and operate fleets of jets to carry executives to company events and sometimes personal trips, according to an Associated Press review.