Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Floods Strike Indiana; Americans Optimistic about Economy; Obama Addresses Economy

Aired June 09, 2008 - 13:00   ET


VELSHI: What shape are your family's finances? That's today's QuickVote question. Here are the results: 39 percent of you are managing to get by; 31 percent of you are struggling to keep up; 16 percent say better than ever; and 14 percent in very bad shape.
Thanks for joining us for that and for "ISSUE #1." CNN NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar and Don Lemon starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CO-HOST: Everybody talks about the soaring price of gas. This hour, we're doing something about it. Now we can't bring prices down, of course, but we can give you real solutions.

DON LEMON, CO-HOSTS: And is you're under water in the upper Midwest, issue No. 1, of course, is the rain. A lot more could be on the way in states already ravaged by deadly floods. Our Chad Myers is watching in our weather center. Susan Roesgen is live in Columbus, Indiana.

KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, extreme weather is one of our top stories today in the CNN NEWSROOM, and we have got you covered from coast to coast. You see our Chad Myers behind us. He is in the weather center, watching it there. But the nation, we are covering the nation today.

Let's start out. First up, let's start out with the rising waters and rising temperatures. A weekend of storms leaves much of the upper Midwest, well, just soaked, and thousands of people without power. The governors of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana call on Washington for help.

The nation's capital, meantime, is baking along with much of the East Coast. Blistering heat is forcing schools to close early and some cities to open cooling centers. And to add to the mystery, scattered power outages all over the place.

Well, President Bush has declared a third of the counties in Indiana disaster areas. And our Susan Roesgen, she is standing by in a flooded neighborhood in Columbus, where people can't believe what has happened to them.

Susan, go ahead. Take it away. Look at the mess.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Don, when we first pulled up here it looked sort of like a neighborhood garage sale, with everybody's stuff out on the sidewalks. But actually, what we're looking at here is a neighborhood's grief.

You have every house on both sides of the street, all these single-story houses with everything that was inside out on the sidewalk, because it's all soaked. Waterlogged, destroyed.

First there was the fury. And then came the flood.


BOB POTEMPA, MONEE, ILLINOIS: Look at all of the debris in the air.

ROESGEN: A CNN iReporter spotted this tornado as if it had spun right out of "The Wizard of Oz." But this was near Chicago, and Dorothy didn't have to deal with what came next.

In dozens of cities and towns, the weekend storms brought more water than wind. Near Indianapolis, what could have been a fun school field trip was, instead, a real-life evacuation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of destruction here.

ROESGEN: Homes, businesses, and farmers' fields seemed to sink beneath rising rivers and lakes. Staying at one of the shelters, Oscar Legan thinks the flood took everything.

OSCAR LEGAN, STORM VICTIM: I think it pretty much did, because the water was nearly to the ceiling.

ROESGEN: Those who have homes to go home to are cleaning up now, in Nebraska and Michigan, and Wisconsin. But in the small town of new Hartford, Iowa, the fight to hold back a flood is over. The entire town, 650 people, finally gave up, and they're all getting out.

J.D. LUND, NEW HARTFORD, IOWA, FIRE DEPARTMENT: The bank on the west end of town is lower than the surrounding. We did sandbag that a little bit, but that's pretty much a lost cause.

ROESGEN: Other people aren't giving up yet. They're getting around as best they can, waiting for the water to give back what lies beneath.


ROESGEN: Here's the worst of it, Don: the house behind me, no flood insurance. House across the street, no flood insurance. House down the street, no flood insurance. House on that side, no flood insurance. I haven't found anybody yet on this street, maybe up to 200 homes in this subdivision, nobody so far, Don, has flood insurance, because this isn't a flood plain. It has never flooded here before. And so what they're hearing from their insurance companies today is, "Sorry. Good luck."

LEMON: Susan, unbelievable. And all of this stuff that I'm looking at behind you, just people's belongings. And it looks like the woman behind you, over your right shoulder just going through, finding what once was hers, I would imagine.


LEMON: All right. Our Susan Roesgen, reporting to us from Columbus, Indiana. We appreciate that, Susan.

We're going to turn now to our Chad Myers. He's behind me in the severe weather center. Chad, the big question: any -- any relief in sight for these people?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the rain is kind of moving back and forth kind of on a wobbling front, and that's some relief. But that front isn't making any progress to the east. So just what was here to the west has now slid to the east. And then it will slide back a little bit on a wobbling system. And as that front just refuses to move anywhere, the rain waters and the floodwaters are just going to continue to pile up.

This map behind me is an estimate of how much rain the computers are printing out for the next 48 hours. Not what's fallen. Because what's already fallen is sublime already. Milwaukee, nine inches of rain in June. That's the third wettest June you've ever had. There's a lot of June to go. So let's hope you don't get anymore, but it is going to be a mess.

And still from Dallas, Oklahoma City, there were some red spots in there. That's four inches of rain or more. It's just one front after another. One low pressure system sliding up the jet stream. It's the same reason we've had so much severe weather.

I mean this is just a perfect scenario. You've got a big low pressure in the west that runs up. When you get a jet stream coming from the southwest to the northeast, that's why storms go that way. That's where the storms fire. Then we've had storm after storm, day after day. Seems like, in this weather center, it almost seems month after month.

Here's some pictures, though, some -- some video from Waukesha, Wisconsin. This is the Fox River, where they've actually had to close down quite a few of the bridges because, well, things are floating down the rivers and then hitting the bridges. Propane tanks and things that are being dislodged.

There you still -- people still look like they're still walking on it, but closed to any kind of kind of road or street traffic when it comes to cars or trucks. But all of a sudden you see something floating down like a shed, people get out of the way, as and hits that bridge right there in Waukesha.

Back to you.

LEMON: All right, Chad Myers. Thank you very much.

MYERS: You're welcome. KEILAR: Filling your tank, filling your belly, it's costing you more by the day. Record gas prices and rising food costs are straining your wallet, stressing you out. Now, we know it; you know it. So we're not just going to give you a laundry list of problems. Instead, we are offering solutions all day long.

It's the economy, it's your money and it's issue No. 1 here at CNN.

So let's start now with gas prices, now topping four bucks a gallon. That's on average. You may already be paying four bucks a gallon or well over that, wherever you are. So the question is, are we in for more spikes, or will this fuel bubble burst?

Let's bring in a guy that you're going to see a whole lot of this afternoon, our senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I love to be seen for other reasons than why...

KEILAR: I know.

VELSHI: ... where gas prices are going. Wish I could give you better news. But at these prices for a barrel of oil, over $135, the speculation in gas prices that is they go higher from where we are.

As you can see, $4.02 is the current national average for the price of gasoline. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia are at that level or higher. Just a few below it at this point.

Now, here's the thing: it is affecting the way we think about everything we do and how we think about the economy. So a new poll by CNN and Opinion Research Corporation shows that fully 40, what is it, 42 percent of Americans say that the economy is the most important issue this election cycle, which is why we call this issue No. 1. And Iraq is No. 2 at 24 percent. Twelve percent say it's health care. Eleven percent say terrorism. And 8 percent immigration.

Now, how does that translate? Well, right now 22 percent of people who we talked to say that the economy is -- is in good shape, just 22 percent. Now, back in March it was 25 percent. January we saw 40 percent. Back in September we saw 54 percent of people saying that the economy's in good shape.

So Brianna, here's the silver lining around that cloud. Right now, 22 percent say the economy is in good shape; 78 percent say it's in poor shape. We asked those same people how they think the economy's going to look a year from now. Look at that: 52 percent think that the economy is going to be in good shape a year from now. Only 46 percent say it will be poor a year from now. So Americans ever resolute, ever optimistic. That sort of gives us something to look at.

We do, sadly, have one other piece of information, and that is that, I think, some 70 percent of our respondents or more said that they think gas is going to hit five bucks a gallon this year. So I don't know how you gel that, that you think gas is going to five bucks a gallon but you think things are going to be better same time next year. What am I? I don't know.

KEILAR: You're an expert, Ali Velshi.

VELSHI: That -- those kind of things confound me. But I'm happy that people are optimistic.

KEILAR: Yes, I am, too. You know, I want to ask you about something -- news that just broke last hour in "ISSUE #1."


KEILAR: Saudi Arabia, this according to the A.P., seeking a meeting of oil producers and consumers to discuss soaring energy prices. Do we know anything about this, what this is going to mean?

VELSHI: Well, it's a kind of a broad statement there. They want to meet with oil-producing countries and consuming countries, which I think kind of makes up everybody in the entire free world.

But the minister who made the statement was saying that Saudi Arabia will do everything it can to keep the price of oil -- or to stabilize the price of oil. And he did make the comment, according to the Associated Press, that he thinks that oil prices at this point are too high. So, that was interesting.

And I just spoke to the treasury secretary of the United States, Henry Paulson, who, again, was just getting that news in. But he welcomed the idea that the Saudis, the largest oil producers in the world, think that maybe oil prices are too high.

So we don't know anything yet. We are working on this, finding out the details of who the Saudis want to meet with and when and what they want to discuss. But the idea that a Saudi official has said that they think the price of oil is a little too high right now, I think, is heartening to everybody.

KEILAR: Yes. I guess a good first step there.


KEILAR: Ali, thanks for that. Appreciate it.


KEILAR: Straight ahead in our "ISSUE #1" coverage, getting more out of your summer travel by using less gas. We're going to tell you how.

Plus, if you're turning to plastic to pay your bills, we're going to show you how to ease your credit crunch.

And some food for thought.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Thelma Gutierrez, here at the farmers' market in Santa Barbara, California, where farmers and businesses are coming up with creative solutions to feed struggling families. We'll have that story, coming up.


KEILAR: Gas, food, credit, we'll tackle all of it, all day.

LEMON: All right. It's time now to talk politics. And leading our political ticker today, Barack Obama's visit to North Carolina. The presumptive Democratic nominee is addressing supporters in Raleigh. His speech, called "Change That Works for You." He is live. We have a live picture. There he is stepping up to the microphone. We will get to him shortly if he makes any news out of that.

Let's talk now about the presumptive Republican nominee. He has private -- he has a private fund-raiser today in Washington and Virginia. Our latest information shows McCain raised $21.5 million last month, his biggest month yet. We don't have Obama's figures for May, but in April he raised almost $32 million.

If Obama and McCain face off in a series of town halls, you won't see them on just one network. The nominees in waiting are rejecting an offer by New York Mayor Bloomberg and ABC News to hold a first face-to-face in prime time on ABC. The Obama and McCain campaigns haven't agreed to anything definite yet, but both agree any such forum should not be sponsored by a single network or news organization.

KEILAR: Hillary Clinton has a new focus, and that is delivering the vote for Barack Obama. The Senator ended her long campaign for the White House over the weekend. In a speech to supporters, she vowed to do whatever it takes to help her former Democratic rival beat John McCain.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.


KEILAR: Obama says that he is thrilled and honored to have Clinton's support.

And also want to take you now to a live event. We are watching Senator Barack Obama give a speech here in Raleigh, North Carolina. Let's listen in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The introduction and the support of your own outstanding governor, who is going to be a great partner in helping me win North Carolina, Governor Mike Easley. In addition, you've got a couple of members of the congressional delegation that are here. I've got to go ahead and mention them. I know Bob Etheridge is here. Is Bob here? There he is. Congressman Bob Etheridge. And my great friend and great advocate here in North Carolina, G.K. Butterfield. Give it up for G.K.

And finally, I am especially honored to have two people who I spent a lot of time with over the last year and a half, and the more time I spent with them, the more impressed I was with their passion, with their intelligence, with their fierce advocacy on behalf of working people. To their commitment to lifting up those in need, people in poverty, people in dire straits.

I don't think there are two people in the country who have done more to elevate the debate about politics, who have focused on critical issues like health care, and who have made us all think about our obligations to create one America.

I'm so proud that they took the time to be here. And I know that John's going to have to leave a little bit early, but I just want you to give a huge round of applause to your own John and Elizabeth Edwards.

I'm grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here. Before we begin, I want to take one more minute to thank Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the kind and generous support she offered on Saturday. She ran -- she ran a historic race, a historic campaign that shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere who know now that there are no limits to their dreams.

What's more, she inspired millions of women and men with her strength and her courage and her unyielding commitment to the causes that brought us here today: the hopes and aspirations of working Americans.

So our party and our country are stronger because of the work that Hillary Rodham Clinton has done throughout her life, and I look forward to working with her, along with John and Elizabeth and Governor Easley and Schweitzer and all of the people who are here to make sure that we lay out the case for change and set a new course for this country.

Now, I've often said that this election represents a defining moment in our history. On major issues like war in Iraq, the warming of our planet, the decisions we make in November and over the next few years will shape a generation, if not a century.

That is especially true when it comes to our economy. We have now lost jobs for five straight months. More than 320,000 jobs have been lost since the beginning of this year. Last month we saw the biggest rise in the unemployment rate in more than 20 years. The percentage of homes and foreclosures and late mortgage payments is the highest since the Great Depression. And I don't need to tell you the price of oil has never been higher and set a record on Friday for the largest one-day spike in history. The cost of health care and college tuition, and even food, have all hit record levels, while family incomes have fallen and wages of our workers have stagnated.

You don't have to read the stock tickers or scan the headlines in the financial sections to understand the seriousness of the situation we're in right now. You just have to go to Pennsylvania and listen to the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one.

Or listen to the woman from Iowa who I met, who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill.

And talk to the worker I met in Indiana who worked at the same plant his father worked at for 30 years until they moved it to Mexico and made the workers actually pack up the equipment themselves so they could send it to China.

Go to Janesville, Wisconsin, Lorraine, Ohio and talk to the workers at the GM plant who just found out the plants they labored their entire lives at will be closed forever.

Or the thousands of truck drivers and airline workers who will lose their jobs because of the debilitating costs of fuel.

Or just ask any family in North Carolina, a family like Pamela's, who sit around their kitchen table tonight and wonder whether next week's paycheck will be enough to cover next month's bills. Who will look at their children without knowing if they'll be able to give them the same chances that they had in life.

We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic situation by some accident of history. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.

George Bush called it the ownership society. But it's little more than the worn dogma that says we should give more to those at the top and hope that their good fortune trickles down to the many who are hard workers.

For eight long years our president sacrificed investment in health care and education and energy and infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs. Trillions of dollars in giveaways that proved neither compassionate nor conservative.

For all of George Bush's professed faith in free markets, the markets have hardly been free. Not when the gates of Washington are thrown open to high-priced lobbyists who rig the rules of the road and riddle our tax code with special-interest favors and corporate loopholes.

As a result of such special-interest-driven policies and lax regulation, we haven't seen prosperity trickling down to Main Street. Instead, a housing crisis that could leave up to 2 million homeowners facing foreclosure has shaken confidence in the entire economy.

I understand that the challenges facing our economy didn't start the day George Bush took office, and they won't end the day he leaves. Some are partly the results of forces that have globalized our economy over the last several decades. Revolutions in communications and technology have sent jobs wherever there's an Internet connection, have forced children in Raleigh and Boston to compete for those jobs with children in Bangalore and Beijing. We live in a more competitive world, and that is a fact that cannot be reversed.

But I also know that this nation has faced such fundamental change before, and each time we've kept our economy strong and competitive by making the decision to expand opportunity outward, to grow our middle class, to invest in innovation, and most importantly, to invest in the education and well-being of our workers. We've done this because, in America, our prosperity has always risen from the bottom up. From the earliest days of our founding it has been the hard work and ingenuity of our people that served as the wellspring of our economic strength.

That's why we built the system of free public high schools when we transitioned from a nation of farms to a nation of factories. That's why we sent my grandfather's generation to college on the G.I. Bill and declared a minimum wage for our workers and promised that they could live and retire in dignity and respect through the creation of the Social Security system.

That's why we've invested in science and research that have led to new discoveries and entire new industries. And that's what this country will do again when I'm president of the United States of America.

We are here in North Carolina to kick off this general election campaign by traveling across the country for the next few weeks to talk about what specifically we need to do to build a 21st century economy that works for working Americans, that will work for Pamela and all of the hard-working men and women out there who simply want to make sure that their children and their grandchildren have that same opportunity to live out the American dream.

I'll speak with the economic experts and advisers at the end of the tour. But first, I want to speak with you and hear about your thoughts and struggles in the places where you live and where you work. And in each step I will take the opportunity to lay out the very real and very serious differences on the economy between myself and Senator John McCain.

As I've said before, John McCain is an American hero whose military service we honor. He can also legitimately tout moments of independence from his party, and on some issues, such as earmarks reform and climate change, he and I share goals, even if we may differ on how to get there.

When it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different division of where to take the country. Because, for all of his talk about independence, the centerpiece of John McCain's economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies.

John McCain says, "We've made great -- great progress." That's a quote. He says we've made great progress in our economy these past eight years. He calls himself a fiscal conservative, and on the campaign trail, he's a passionate critic of government spending.

And yet, he has no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and a permanent occupation of Iraq, policies that have left our children with a mountain of debt.

George Bush's policies have taken us from a projected $5.6 trillion at end of the Clinton administration to massive deficits and nearly $4 trillion in new debt today. We were promised a fiscal conservative. Instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history.

And now, John McCain wants to give us another. We've been there once. We're not going back. It's time to move this country forward. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

I have a different vision for the future. Instead of spending $12 billion a month to rebuild Iraq, I think it's time we invested in our roads and schools and bridges and started to rebuild America.

Instead of handing out giveaways to corporations that don't need them and didn't even ask for them, it's time we start giving a hand up to families that are trying to pay their medical bills and send their children to college.

We can't afford four more years of skewed priorities that give us nothing but record debt. We need change that works for the American people. And that is the choice in this election.

My vision involves both a short-term plan to help working families who are struggling to keep up right now and a long-term agenda to make America competitive in a global economy. A week -- a week from today, I'll be talking about this long-term agenda in more detail. It's an agenda that will require us, first and foremost, to train and educate our workforce with the skills necessary to compete and a knowledge-based economy. We'll also need to place a greater emphasis on areas like science and technology that will define the workforce of the 21st century.

We'll need to invest in the research and innovation necessary to create jobs and industries of the future right here in North Carolina, right here in the United States of America.

And one place where that investment would make an enormous difference is in a renewable energy policy that ends our addiction on foreign oil, provides real long-term relief from high gas prices and high fuel costs, and builds a green economy that could create up to 5 million well-paying jobs that can be its source. We can also create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure that needs repaired.

And because we know that we can't or shouldn't put up walls around our economy, a long-term agenda will also find a way to make trade work for American workers. We do the cause of free trade, a cause I believe in, no good when we pass trade agreements that hand out favors to special interests and do little to help workers who have to watch their factories close down.

There is nothing protectionist about demanding that trade spreads the benefits of globalization as broadly as possible.

That's -- that's what we need to do in the long term. But today I want to focus on what we must do in the short term right now to lift up our workers, ease the struggles that so many families are facing, and restore a sense of fairness and balance to our economy. Such relief can't wait until the next president takes office.

In January, well before the administration seemed to discover ordinary Americans were struggling, I called for a fiscal stimulus plan to get checks into the hands of hard-working families and seniors right away. Congress passed such a plan, and the first checks are now arriving. But since then, hundreds of thousands of more people have lost their jobs, and so we have to do more.

That's why I've called for another round of fiscal stimulus, and immediate $50 billion to help those who have been hit hardest by this economic downturn: Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes, are facing rising costs in everything from food to a gallon of gas. We've got to give them some relief right now.

We need a second round of rebate checks to help people with their soaring gas and grocery bills. We need to expand unemployment benefits and extend them for those who can't find another job right away, especially since the long-term unemployment rate is nearly twice as high as it was during the last recession.

And we must help the millions of homeowners who are facing foreclosure through no fault of their own. As late as December, John McCain told a newspaper in New Hampshire that he'd love to offer a solution to the housing crisis, but he just didn't have one. It took him three different tries to figure it out.

And in the end, his plan does nothing to help 1.5 million homeowners who are facing foreclosure, even as he supported spending billions to bail out Wall Street. President Bush told the American people he thought the biggest danger arising from the housing crisis was the temptation to do something about it. This is what he said.

Now, Senator McCain wants to turn Bush's policy of too little, too late, into a policy of even less, even later. That's not the change we need right now. That's what got us into this mess in the first place.


OBAMA: In contrast, I offered a proposal to crack down on mortgage fraud almost two years ago. And in this campaign, I've called for the immediate creation of a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund to provide direct relief to victims of the housing crisis. We will also --


OBAMA: -- we will also help those who are facing foreclosure to refinance their mortgages so they can stay in their homes at rates they can afford. I will provide struggling homeowners relief by offering a tax credit to low and middle income Americans that would cover 10 percent of their mortgage interest payments every year. The principle is simple; if the government can bail out investment banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to folks who are struggling here on Main Street.


OBAMA: We're also going to get tough on enforcement, raise the penalties on lenders who break the rules and implement a new home score system that will allow consumers to find out more about mortgage offers and whether they're going to be able to make payments. This kind of transparency won't just make our homeowners more secure, it will make our markets more stable and keep our economy strong and competitive in the future. That's the change Americans need. And that's what I will do as president of the United States.


OBAMA: As the housing crisis spills over in other parts of the economy, we also need to help the millions of Americans who are struggling under the skyrocketing costs and stagnant wages that are pushing working families towards the debt spiral from which they can't escape. We have to give them a way out by lowering costs, putting more money in their pockets and rebuilding a safety net that's becoming badly frayed over the last few decades.

When it comes to relieving these economic anxieties that working families feel, nothing matches the burden they face from crushing health care costs that are just devastating to families all across North Carolina and all across the country. Now, John McCain's approach to health care mirrors that of George Bush. He's promising four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and the wealthy; a plan that will actually make it easier, easier, than it already is for insurance companies to deny coverage to the elderly or the sick or those with preexisting conditions. It may lead millions to lose coverage they already have and millions more to have to pay even more than they do right now.

We cannot afford that, not when 47 million Americans already are uninsured -- a number that is growing by the day -- not when families and businesses across the country are being crushed by the growing burden of health care costs, and when half of all personal bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. When I am president, we're going to take a different approach. We will give every American the chance to get the same kind of health care that members of Congress give themselves.


OBAMA: And if you already have health insurance and you want to keep that health insurance, we will bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family, and we will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against those who need care the most.


OBAMA: No more exclusions for preexisting conditions, no more price gouging on prescription drugs. And we won't just lower the costs for families, we will lower costs for the entire country by making our health care system more efficient through better technology and more emphasis on prevention. That's the choice in this election and that's the change that I will bring as president of the United States of America in my first term.


OBAMA: Just as we need to reform our health care system -- by the way I'm going to be partnering up with Elizabeth Edwards, we're going to be figuring all of this out --


OBAMA: -- we also have to reform a tax code that rewards wealth over work, a 10,000 page monstrosity that high priced lobbyists have rigged with page after page after page of special interest loopholes and tax shelters. A tax code that continues George Bush's billion dollar giveaways to big corporations and wealthy CEOs, a tax code that has plunged this country deeper and deeper into debt. John McCain takes great pride in saying he's a fiscal conservative. He's already signalled that he will try to define me with the same old tax and spend label that his side has been throwing around for decades of Democrats.

But let's look at the facts. John McCain once said that he couldn't vote for the Bush tax cuts in good conscience because they were too skewed towards the wealthiest Americans. Later, he said it was irresponsible to cut taxes during a time of war was because we simply couldn't afford them. Well nothing has changed about the war, but something certainly changed about John McCain. Because these same Bush tax cuts are now his central economic policy.

Not only that, but he's now calling for a new round of tax giveaways that are twice as expensive as the original Bush plan and nearly twice as regressive. His policy will spend nearly $2 trillion on tax breaks for corporations, including, get this, $1.2 billion for Exxon alone; a company that just recorded the highest profits in history. Think about that.

At a time when we're fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can't afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we're paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil. That isn't just irresponsible; it's outrageous. It's outrageous.


OBAMA: If John McCain's policies were implemented, they would add $5.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. That isn't fiscal conservatism. That's what George Bush has done over the last eight years. Not only can working families not afford it, future generations can't afford it. And we can't allow it to happen in this election.

So I will take a different approach. I will reform our tax code so that it's simple, fair, and advances opportunity instead of distorting the market by advancing the agenda of some lobbyists or oil companies. I'll shut down the corporate loopholes and tax havens and I'll use the money to help pay for a middle class tax cut that will provide $1,000 of relief, $1,000 of relief, to 95 percent of workers and their families.


OBAMA: I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits and will use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills.


OBAMA: We'll also eliminate income taxes for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year, because every senior, every senior, deserves to live out their life in dignity and respect. And while John McCain wants to pick up where George Bush left off, by trying, again, to privatize Social Security, I will never waiver in my commitment to protect that basic promise as president. We will not privatize Social Security, we will not raise the retirement age, and we will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.


KEILAR: Barack Obama speaking in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's beginning a two-week tour where he's courting working class voters.

We heard him say that McCain's economic plan is akin to President Bush's economic plan. He has tried to put McCain in the same category as Bush on foreign policy. He's doing it as well with the economy, and he also was talking about health care, saying that he's going to be partnering with Elizabeth Edwards, the wife, of course, of John Edwards, former presidential condition himself on his health care approach. So, some news there.

But again, this is North Carolina, which generally has gone for the Republican nominee in the general election. But you'll recall that Barack Obama got a big turnout among black voters there in the primary election, obviously he's hoping to do that again come November. We also want to tell you we're keeping an eye on John McCain's wear abouts. But he done have public events today on his calendar, so no rallies, no town halls, nothing like that. He is though, holding some private fund-raisers, one in Virginia, which could be a battleground state, again normally going for the Republican nominee. However, not necessarily a forgone conclusion for John McCain. He's holding a private fund-raiser there today, as well as a couple other private fundraisers in Washington, D.C.

We'll bring you all of the latest political news, here on CNN.

LEMON: And do doubt, Brianna, politicians will be dealing with this as well, perhaps notice way of assistance, maybe some federal assistance. Take a look at these pictures, just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. They're from Racine, Wisconsin. The region was hit by rain and tornadoes and damaging winds over the weekend. They are picking up the pieces.

ISSUE #1 today in the CNN NEWSROOM, the economy and weather.


KEILAR: Getting where you're going and using less gas along the way. You can do both this summer, even while prices at the pump keep on rising.

Let's get some drivers ed from our Gerri Willis, she's at Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers, New York.

It's kind of kind of like drivers ed, part two, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. Good to see you.

Listen, we're here in Yonkers and I'm with John Linkov, who is the managing editor of Autos for Consumer Reports. Smart guy on autos, we're going to tell you how to bring down the bill for summer driving.

JOHN LINKOV, MANAGING EDITOR, CONSUMER REPORTS: John, you say start by mapping out your route when you're taking that summer trip.

Definitely, Gerri. What you want to do is have a clear idea where you're going, use your GPS system. The really good ones that we've rated on, they actually list where gas stations are, so you can plan ahead, where to stop so that you don't have to worry about looking for fuel.

WILLIS: And you also say, slow down, don't drive like a nut case.

LINKOV: Right. Easy on the throttle. For every five miles -- you lose five miles per gallon for every ten miles an hour you go faster than 55. So, at 65 and 75, you're losing almost 10 miles per gallon.

WILLIS: And you say drive smoothly?

LINKOV: Yes, east on the throttle. Don't be mashing the throttle really hard when you're taking off from a stop light. And also, you don't want to be hitting the brake too hard either. Because that's all killing momentum and you're going -- you deal with -- you can't get that back without going faster.

WILLIS: Makes a lot of sense. Now, you say you know, we stopped, we're not moving forward. You say, shut off the engine if you're not driving.

LINKOV: Exactly. If you're into a situation where, for example, there's a train crossing or a lot of traffic because of a bridge opening, after 30 seconds turn off the engine, you're getting zero miles per gallon when you're idling and lower the windows. And you know, if it's 97 degrees, maybe run the AC. But if it's a breeze, you'll be cooler.

WILLIS: You have stuff to show us outside the car. Let's hop out of here. All right. John, you say pack lightly, what do you mean?

LINKOV: Well, definitely. What you want to do is take that rooftop carrier, those big boxes, take those off of the roof. Because with a sedan you can lose five miles per gallon. With an SUV that's a big box, you're still going to lose one or two miles per gallon. So what you do is take that off, bring it down, same thing with a bike rack. Take the bike rack off.

WILLIS: This is a bike rack?

LINKOV: This is a bike rack. Put one on the hitch down underneath, or put onto the back of the trunk or the back of the hatch. You have the vehicle blocking the air, so you're getting better mileage.

WILLIS: And it's aero-dynamic. You don't have to worry about interrupting the travel of the flow of the air.

Now inside, you have some interesting things to say here. Now we've obviously got a lot of stuff packed for our trip, right?

LINKOV: You've taken everything out. We've got the beach chair, the bags, the umbrella. But what you want to do is, first of all, pack lightly. Rent if you have to, something there. Maybe you need something else, bring a cooler, possibly instead of bringing big boxes of stuff. But also, push everything as far forward as possible.

WILLIS: Why that is?

LINKOV: Well, what you want to do is for safety. It's not going to necessarily help with mileage. But when you're taking that stuff off of the roof, put the heavy things far forward in front of the axle, it's just for safer handling overall.

WILLIS: OK, well great ideas, great tips. We really appreciate your time, John.

So I hope you guys heard this. What we were telling folks is that if you just slow down ten miles per hour, you'll save five miles per gallon. So that's an easy thing to do without buying any extra equipment or anything -- back to you.

KEILAR: Yes, that's the big one. And I now know why I'm not getting great gas mileage. Gerri Willis, for us there in Yonkers, New York. Appreciate it.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

Well, do you have a question perhaps, about where the economy is heading? Or you have questions about your credit, gas prices, food prices, anything else. You can e-mail them to

And those rising gas prices, also rising unemployment and the troubled housing market. It's enough to make you sick, isn't it? We will look at what the ailing economy could be doing to your health.


LEMON: Well, troubling signs in the economy can create more trouble than you realize. So as we focus on ISSUE #1 today, we're including a look at the physical and the mental toll the associated stress can have on you.

Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is looking at the connection between hardship and health and there is a very real connection.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a connection. And you know what? I think those people get it that there's a mental connection, you get stressed out, you don't feel good about it, you get depressed. But a lot of people don't know that stress actually takes a toll on the entire body. But first, let's look at who is stressed out. it turns out a lot of us are stressed out.

American Psychological Association poll found that 74 percent of people last year said that they were stressed out by work or money, that's way up. It was only 59 percent, that's a big jump for one year. And you know, as the economy has gotten worse and worse in so many ways, Don, I kind of wonder, what are those 2008 numbers look like? I mean, if it was 3 out of 4 last year, what is it this year?

LEMON: All right. So, stress can make us worried, can even have depression. What are the real physical manifestations of...

COHEN: Well, you know the term, don't worry yourself sick?


COHEN: You really can worry yourself sick. So, let's look at various body parts and what happens when you're stressed out. Stress can take a toll in the jaw, for example. People have TMJ, which is a painful condition in the jaw that's brought on in part, by stress. Also, stress affects your heart. Stress sends your blood pressure up and that can make you more likely to have a heart attack. Stress also affects the digestive system. People get nauseous and people have headaches. And really, stress affects the entire body from head to toe because stress weakens your immune system and makes you much more vulnerable to a whole host of diseases.

LEMON: All right. So what do? You got to do something to get it under control, otherwise you just spiral and spiral. One compounds the other.

COHEN: Exactly. And everybody has sort of a different way of doing this. Some people pray to deal with stress. Other people go to counseling. Some people like to take prescription medicine. Some people probably like to take non prescription medicine, we are not recommending that.

However, what a lot of doctors say is look, you need to get to the root problem. If the problem is that you're having financial issues, you need to tackle those financial issues head on. But, aha, here is the contradiction. If you don't have money, how do you get that kind of the counseling? Well, there is a group that gives out free counseling, for financial issues. It is called the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, You go in, you put in your zip code, and out pops a bunch of free services.

LEMON: Good advice. Just don't do nothing. You have to do something.

COHEN: Don't do nothing, right. That is the bottom line.

LEMON: Inertia, momentum, put you -- tackle it, right?

COHEN: You have to do something. You have to tackle it. If you ignore it, remember that body we had up there? It's going to be way messed up.

LEMON: Yes, thank you Elizabeth, good advice.

KEILAR: And we're keeping our eyes well, on bad weather in the Midwest over the weekend in Wisconsin. Heavy rain, tornadoes, there was damaging wind. And that prompted some flash flood, some forced evacuations.

Straight ahead, we're going to talk with Chad Myers and see what is in the forecast in that area.


HARRIS: The big question in Texas, is who torched the governor's mansion? Fire gutted most of the second floor and the roof yesterday. Authorities say surveillance video and witness interviews led them to think this is a case of arson. National arson investigator and canine search teams are helping with that probe. The Austin mansion has been home to Texas governor, for more than 150 years. No one was there yesterday. The mansion's undergoing a multi million dollar renovation.

KEILAR :Well,as their boat took on water he hustled them off, then went down with the ship. The crew of a T&M sailboat is calling Roger Stone, the man that you see with the white hat, sitting on the right here, they're calling him a hero. The safety officer found dead yesterday, inside the Cynthia Wood, hours after five crewmates were plucked from the Gulf of Mexico. The boat was taking part in a regatta when it ran into trouble.


STEVEN GUY, Texas A&M: The water was coming in and Roger said, you need to go out this way. So I held my breath to get ready to dive under and I felt him push me and it pushed me into the cockpit. And I got to the wheel I grabbed the wheel, because it was a way to orient myself and I pulled myself to the backs stay. Once I cleared the back stay I surfaced and I was right next to Steve.


KEILAR: The man were in the water for 26 hours before they were found. Fish were starting to nibble on them, and something with a shark-like fin was circling. They were finally able to signal rescuers with a flashlight.


CHIEF PETTY OFC. ALBERT SHANNON, COAST GUARD RESCUE SWIMMER: It's such a long shot, at times. You know, six people -- you know, people in the water in the vastness of the ocean, at night. You know, it's really -- even though you have your search grids and what not, it's still a needle in a hey stack to find somebody. So everyone was pretty excited that we actually found these guys, found them alive and in good shape.


KEILAR: Coast Guard officials say the Cynthia Woods was missing its keel, which indicates a possible collision with something in the water. Because the keel helps stabilize the sail boat and keep it from overturning.

LEMON: Indiana's governor calls it a radical deluge, and these folks in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Iowa, would no doubt agree. Huge amounts of rain cause deadly and devastating floods, and it's not over yet.

KEILAR: It's not a force of nature, but it sure feels like one.