- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

ALFALFA CLUB

Obama makes fun of chief of staff

President Obama poked fun at his volatile chief of staff in a free-for-all roasting of Washington and its politicians Saturday night.

Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended the Alfalfa Club dinner, an annual black-tie event where the capital’s political and business leaders give humorous speeches.

After a day where Mr. Obama readied a new road map for bailout spending and faced questions over a second Cabinet nominee with tax problems, it was Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who was a target of much of the president’s ribbing.

“Now this hasn’t been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm’s idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again,” Mr. Obama said. “Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.

“Every week, the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week, he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children,” Mr. Obama said.

Excerpts of Mr. Obama’s remarks were released by the White House. The event, conducted at a hotel a few blocks from the White House, was closed to the media.

ECONOMICS

Survey: Americans saving more

Americans are hunkering down and saving more. For a recession-battered economy, it couldn’t be happening at a worse time.

Economists call it the “paradox of thrift.” What’s good for individuals - spending less, saving more - is bad for the economy when everyone does it.

On Friday, the government reported Americans’ savings rate, as a percentage of after-tax incomes, rose to 2.9 percent in the last three months of 2008. That’s up sharply from 1.2 percent in the third quarter and less than 1 percent a year ago.

Like a teeter-totter, when the savings rate rises, spending falls. The latter accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity. When consumers refuse to spend, companies cut back, layoffs rise, people pinch pennies even more and the recession deepens.

The downward spiral has hammered the retail and manufacturing industries. For years, stores enjoyed boom times as shoppers splurged on TVs, fancy kitchen decor and clothes. But now, frugality is in style.

FOOTBALL

Super Bowl used to woo lawmakers

Sure, it’s all about bipartisanship. Not to mention the perks of watching the Super Bowl at the White House with the “first fan” playing host.

President Obama invited a group of lawmakers - some Republicans, many Democrats and a few from Pennsylvania and Arizona - to join him for Sunday’s NFL championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.

With no Chicago team for Mr. Obama to cheer, the president said he’s rooting for Pittsburgh against the “long-suffering” and “great Cinderella story” Cardinals, and he wished the Cardinals the best.

Steelers owner Dan Rooney, a longtime Republican, endorsed Mr. Obama’s presidential bid and campaigned for him. Mr. Obama also noted that Franco Harris, one of the most beloved former Steelers, campaigned for him in Pittsburgh, too.

Five of the 15 lawmakers invited to join Mr. Obama are from Pennsylvania, and two are from Arizona. There are four senators and 11 representatives. The group includes 11 Democrats, four Republicans and three women.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs called the gathering another step in the president’s continuing effort to reach out to lawmakers and get to know them better in hopes of reducing the partisan rancor as they work together on the people’s business.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, also had about a dozen lawmakers over at the Naval Observatory to watch the game.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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