House Democrats will convene another panel of economic experts next week to assess the sagging U.S. economy and discuss possible remedies.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders will convene their third panel of outside economic advisers to brief members, aides and others about the perils of the continuing downturn.
Panelists will discuss the ripples caused by a global credit crisis that has pinched borrowers and roiled lenders, the rising prices for gas, food and other staples of the family budget, and their overall outlook for the global economy.
Democrats convene this latest panel as they try to wrap up work on a handful of measures that might answer voters' concerns in this critical election year, including a housing package that will alter lending rules in an effort to prevent another subprime fiasco, a war-funding bill that could include some domestic spending and a potential second stimulus that would come on the heels of a modest tax rebate Congress approved earlier this year. Some of these same economic experts laid out the theoretical underpinnings for that rebate check during an earlier panel.
The participants include Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary and president of Harvard University; Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's Economy.com, an offshoot of the powerful credit-rating company; Lewis Sachs, a partner with Mariner Investment Group, Inc.; Allen Sinai, founder and chief global economist for Decision Economics, Inc.; and Alan Blinder, an economics professor at Princeton University.
Democratic leaders have created this panel as something of an outside advisory board. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, helped organize the initial installments to inform lawmakers about the economic pitfalls that have hampered the economy. 'There's no brain to waste here,' Emanuel said.
The first meeting focused largely on the credit crunch and its impact on the housing market, particularly for homeowners locked into subprime loans. This current panel occurs as commodity prices rise, leading to soaring food and fuel costs. The price of milk, bread and a number of other everyday staples have jumped significantly in the first four months of this year. In addition, the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that the economy grew 0.6 percent for the first three months of the year, a meager gain but proof the U.S. economy is not technically in a recession.
The panel will address where the economy is headed, and what Congress should do next to follow-up on the stimulus and the housing bill to help spur a recovery and minimize job loss for individuals and states. That could include some discussion about whether states or other local governments will need financial assistance from the federal government.
House Democrats are pushing for a second stimulus package that would focus more on domestic spending than targeted tax rebates. Republicans have been lukewarm about that proposal and have misgivings about much of the legislation Democrats hope to move before Memorial Day.