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November 19th, 2009
12:04 PM ET

$6.4 billion stimulus goes to phantom districts

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/17/art.recovery.cnn.jpg caption="Recovery.gov"]

Bill McMorris
The Franklin Center

Just how big is the stimulus package? Well for one, it has doubled the size of the House of Representatives, according to recovery.gov, which says that funds were distributed to 440 congressional districts that do not exist.

According to data retrieved from recovery.gov, nearly $6.4 billion was used to “create or save” just under 30,000 jobs in these phantom congressional districts–almost $225,000 per job. The web site operates on an $84 million budget and is tasked with monitoring the distribution of the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress–which, for the record, counts 435 members–in early 2009.

The site’s monitors, however, are not too savvy about America’s political or geographic landscape. More than $2 million was given to the 99th District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district. In order to qualify for 99 districts, North Dakota would have to have a population of about 60 million people, almost 24 million more people than California.

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Filed under: Economy • Job Market
November 19th, 2009
10:47 AM ET

A bipartisan push is needed to tame ballooning national debt


Evan Bayh
Special to CNN

America's national debt cannot grow beyond a limit imposed by Congress known as the "debt ceiling."

In 1919, just after World War I, the limit on U.S. borrowing was $43 billion.

By 2001, it had grown to $5.9 trillion.

Today, the debt ceiling is at an all-time high of $12.1 trillion.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, our public debt amounted to 33 percent of our economy. Today, it is 60 percent of our gross domestic product. If we do nothing, our debt is projected to swell to over 70 percent by 2019.

To put those numbers in perspective: If you divided the debt equally among all Americans, every man, woman and child living in the United States today would owe more than $39,000.

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Filed under: Economy
November 19th, 2009
10:37 AM ET

Political correctness and Ft. Hood killings

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/11/17/fort.hood.medals/story.fort.hood.boots.gi.jpg caption="Boots, rifles and helmets stand tribute to the military victims of the Fort Hood massacre." width=300 height=169]
Tom Kenniff
Special to CNN

Just hours after the first reports of the tragedy at Fort Hood surfaced, a divisive dialogue was developing on the talk shows and in the Internet blogosphere.

On one side were those arguing that shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's apparent bloodlust was an unfortunate byproduct of an overtaxed military forced to fight a multifront war against an uncertain enemy.

Television doctors expounded on the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans, often without indicating that Hasan had not been to war or suffered any obvious trauma that could explain the gruesome manifestation of his "stress."

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Filed under: Fort Hood Shooting
November 19th, 2009
10:23 AM ET
November 19th, 2009
10:15 AM ET
November 19th, 2009
08:27 AM ET

Dear President Obama #304: Bungling the breast cancer report

Reporter's Note: President Obama is still abroad, but as is so often the case, things a heating up at home. Never one to run from a fire, I’ll toss another letter to the White House into the blaze.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/11/16/mammography.recommendation.changes/story.mammogram.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Well, as sure as if you’d left an iron on when you took off for your travels, all heck has broken loose here. And the issue is women’s health. In case you have not picked up a newspaper from back home, a task force operating under the umbrella of the Health and Human Services Department has recommended what adds up to a significant scaling back of mammograms to detect breast cancer in the younger portion of middle-aged women.

They’ve offered all sorts of explanations about how the tests cause anxiety, and often have to be redone, and yadda, yadda, yadda. What they have not explained well enough, however, is why they didn’t do a better job consulting with the nation’s top cancer prevention groups before throwing this bombshell. Nor have they effectively refuted the claims of critics (some with pretty impressive diplomas on their walls) who say this is simply putting cost and convenience above the value of lives.

Secretary Sebelius has gone into damage control, clearly trying to distance your team from the whole mess and encouraging women of all ages to continue getting mammograms. But some of the damage may already be done. First, because the whole episode seemed shadowed by a cloud of incompetence, and frankly after the swine flu vaccine problems you (let alone Sebelius!) don’t need it.

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