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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Deadly Wildfire in Tujunga, California; Obama Losing Support; Bracing for Swine Flu; Does Job Re-Training Work?

Aired September 01, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the deadly wildfires just 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles is growing even larger, and it's spreading in all directions, threatening 12,000 homes.

Hurricane Jimena a dangerous category 3 hurricane with winds as strong as 150 miles per hour. It's taking aim at the popular Mexican resort town of Cabos San Lucas. Thousands have been ordered to leave.

And unfamiliar territory for President Obama. Our latest poll puts his approval ratings barely above 50 percent.

But first, the wildfire bearing down on Southern California just miles from downtown Los Angeles. Flames have been rising 100 feet in the air, racing up hillsides that are just too steep for firefighters on the ground. You can see the pictures there. The fire has now burned 122,000 acres. And to put that into context, that's an area that is bigger than the city of Philadelphia. More than 50 homes have burned, but 12,000 are still in danger. 3,700 firefighters are battling the flames, but it could be weeks before this fire is officially declared under control.

For the latest tonight, let's go to Sandra Endo in Tujunga, California.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabrielle Golia (ph) is walking to see what's left of her dream home, now reduced to a brick facade and ashes.

GABRIELLE GOLIA, HOME BUYER: This is the front door.

ENDO: She and her husband married a month ago and were a couple of weeks from closing on this foreclosed property. It was a three- bedroom, two-bath home on an acre of land. The backyard, an outdoor playground.

GOLIA: We had canyons that we wanted to climb and camp in. We had them all planned out. So we were excited about the weekends that we could do just spread out of our backyard.

ENDO: The massive wildfire had no mercy for this neighborhood. One casualty and more than 120,000 acres torched by the blaze. Deep canyons and dry brush are creating perfect feeding grounds for the flames. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That fire is growing by the moment and there are 10,000 residents threatened by the fire and we're very, very concerned about that fire.

ENDO: State officials say residents should heed warnings.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: So many times we see people stay behind and try to be a little bit -- overly courageous and then they get into deep trouble and get burned and get injured because of that, so listen to it.

ENDO: Despite Golia's own hopes going up in flames, she says her neighbors suffered much worse.

GOLIA: We lost our future dreams. They lost everything.


ENDO: Now many residents here are slowly being able to come through this area to survey their property, but so many are leaving devastated, thinking about all that they've lost and what they need to do to rebuild. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Sandra, thank you very much for that report.

Well, no matter how many times folks hear the warnings, some people just -- they refuse to leave, even as the flames are bearing down on their homes.

Brian Todd spoke with some Tujunga residents who are risking their lives to save their homes.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The raging fire invades Tujunga Canyon just north of Los Angeles. This area is as dry as a tinder box and the flames are racing through these hills.

(On camera): We got permission from the people who live here to come as close as we can to this fire. This is the Station fire creeping down Tujunga Canyon right here, really coming down fast toward us. Flames lipping the side of the ridge and a lot of heavy smoke.

It is moving very fast, but believe it or not, some residents very close to here have not evacuated yet.

(Voice-over): Two men who've lived in this canyon for more than a decade and the 13-year-old grandson of one of them are among some 4,000 people told to evacuate. As they sit and watch the flames move closer, they're still not ready to leave.

(On camera): Why are you still here?

DICK THOMPSON, TUJUNGA CANYON RESIDENT: Well, our family is out. We -- they're sitting in (INAUDIBLE) Park which is a couple of miles south of here. And they're fine. We're in communication continually.

The problem here, an old property like this, as you can see, the oak tree, the leaves, you can't -- you can never really make this completely safe.

TODD (voice-over): He says he's prepared to fight the fire with the water and hoses he has on his property but says he will leave if it gets too bad. Still, it's the stubbornness that exasperates firefighters to no end.

CHIEF MIKE DIETRICH, INCIDENT CMDR., STATION FIRE: They take their lives in their own hands when people choose to stay and will take -- as the sheriff said they'll take their next of kin and ask for their dental records restored.

TODD: Up the mountain, staffers at the Little Tujunga Canyon Wildlife Weigh Station are scrambling. They have evacuated about 200 animals but are desperately trying to get the biggest ones out.

(On camera): Part of the challenge here is that they've got about 150 to 200 more animals to evacuate including this massive tiger behind me and others like it that are getting increasingly irritated. And another part of the challenge is, they need cages that are big enough to fit these animals. They don't have enough of them yet.

(Voice-over): And even when they get those cages, getting the animals to cooperate on the timetable of a massive fire is daunting.

MARTINE COLETTE, TUJUNGA CANYON WILDLIFE WEIGH STATION: You know, you can't say, hey, guy said, this is a fire. You've got to really move fast. They don't understand that, and so we've got to coax them, we've got to bride them. We've got to tranquilize them. We've got to whatever we need to do to get them moving.


TODD: Now those animals are being transported to local zoos and other compounds, but officials at that wildlife preserve are very, very worried that they are not going to get all of them out ahead of this fire. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yes, Brian, going back to those residents who decide to stay, I mean, they're hoping to fight this fire, but that has got to be incredibly dangerous to take on this fire.

And you're looking now at these pictures. You can see just this wall of fire moving through. It just does not -- it doesn't look like a very safe situation for these folks.

TODD: It is not a safe situation. One of the people we talked to who is waiting this out with these other gentleman there said look, if I can see down my road and I've got a point of egress, meaning, a way out, and I can watch the flames coming toward me, I can kind of time it. I've got everything packed and I can get out of here.

But that frustrates fire officials, who say that even the residents here who've lived here for a while don't quite have the appreciation they need to for how fast these fires can move and engulf these house.

We've seen it today. It just moves over these ridges incredibly fast. It is very dry around here, very hot. They're not getting any breaks on the weather. This is a very dangerous situation.

SYLVESTER: All right. Brian Todd, be safe there. We appreciate your report.

Well, this fire is unusual for southern California which is used to wildfires fanned by the infamous Santa Ana winds. Well, this time, there's basically no wind at all, it's just heat and low humidity.

Chad Myers, he joins us now from the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, what are the conditions looking like tonight?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Lisa, still not windy at all. Still, here's -- just a live shot I want to show you for a second. KCAL/KCBS air tanker in the air. You can't even see anything. You can't -- you have no visibility there whatsoever.

I know there are mountains there in the background. You just can't see them because of the smoke not being blown away. Now watch what you ask for, because you don't want a lot of wind because then all of a sudden you have a Santa Ana event and a fire ahead of the fire because of the embers moving.

I want to take you up the canyon that Brian Todd was just talking about. I want to take you right to the park. This is a long, steep canyon. Look at the topography here. Up and down on the sides. You can't get firefighters on the hillsides here chopping things down. And right there, that entire complex, that is the wildfire refuge that he was talking about.

Another place that we saw smoke today, up on top of Mount Wilson again. They had this knocked down yesterday. On top of Mount Wilson, they talk about all these -- the towers, the radio and TV towers. Not worried about that. We have these observatories up on top of there as well. That's what's in trouble for tonight with all of this smoke.

Now they were making a lot of backfires today. And that may have helped a little bit. They may have helped with the backfires as they were burning back toward the other flames and then these -- and we see the air tankers, DC-10s, and this -- there was another -- a big, big aircraft in the water as well, putting down the (INAUDIBLE).

Something else in the water, this is Jimena. Big hurricane here. Cabo San Lucas just to the west of that. That is a monster storm. 125 miles per hour. And not hitting Cabo San Lucas directly. Thank goodness. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yes, you have this irony that you talked about that you've got this hurricane churning so close. Is it going to help put out these fires at all? Maybe some of those -- a little rain headed that way?

MYERS: Wouldn't you think that would be a good thing? Let me take you just to this map right here real quick. This is just because of topography. Don't worry about the fire. What happened today, a little bit of rain, just a little bit of rain came in, and that rain came down.

As it came down, it evaporated above the tree line, and just like when you see hot air balloons rising or if you see cold air coming out of your freezer, the air cooled up here as the rain evaporated. As the rain evaporated, the air cooled. The air went down even faster, hit the ground, and went out with more wind.

So just when you think it would be great to get some showers, today, the showers didn't help at all, in fact, they only hurt the situation completely.

SYLVESTER: Oh man. They can't catch a break there.

MYERS: That's right.

SYLVESTER: All right, Chad Myers, thanks very much for that update.

MYERS: Sure.

SYLVESTER: And we will have more on the wildfires still ahead tonight.

Also, how Democrats hope to take back the debate over health care before it's too late.

And what's behind President Obama's troubling new poll numbers?


SYLVESTER: A new poll shows President Obama is quickly losing support among independents. The CNN Opinion Research Poll shows a majority of independents, 53 percent, disapprove of the way the president is handling the health care debate. And it's not just health care they're concerned about.

Jessica Yellin has our report.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Health care deadlock. A ballooning deficit, and President Obama is taking it on the chin. A new CNN Opinion Research Poll show the president's approval rating is now at 53 percent. Down three points in the last month, down 13 since April.

Driving the slide, independents. CNN polling shows for the first time, a majority of independents, 53 percent, do not approve of the way the president is doing his job, 43 percent approve.


YELLIN: Should the president blame those numbers on his top issue, health care reform?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, passing a big bill like this is always messy.

YELLIN: Well, yes, and no. 53 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of health care reform, but guess what? The numbers are just as bad on general economic issues.

When it comes to the president's handling of the deficit, only 36 percent approve. Break it down and only 25 percent of independents approve. On taxes, 45 percent approve. Only 35 percent of independents approve.

And those numbers have been on a downward slide for months.

CROWD: Yes, we can.

OBAMA: Yes, we can.

YELLIN: There is one group that's holding strong for the president, Democrats.

OBAMA: Thank you so much for your unbelievable dedication. It is good to be here.

YELLIN: CNN's polling shows in recent weeks, the president's actually gained some support among Democrats.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: That indicates that we may see the same pattern of polarization that see saw during George W. Bush's administration reasserting itself.


YELLIN: Lisa, the issues on which the president is pulling the lowest are the ones the Republicans have targeted -- the deficit, the taxes, health care. Now it could be a sign that the Republicans' PR messages are working or it could be the inevitable. In truth, most presidents do see their approval rating fall as they get further into their first year in office. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: So what can tell us, Jessica? Is there a generational gap?

YELLIN: Absolutely. Polling shows that the president's strongest voting bloc during the election, the young, are still strongly behind him. 65 percent of youth approve of his job. But here's the interesting numbers. Seniors. Seniors are giving him only 42 percent approval.

That's almost 10 points lower than the nation at large. You can probably attribute that to health care reform. If he turns out a bill they like, those numbers should go up. If they don't, they'll stay there or fall. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yes, and they are watching very closely that health care debate, Jessica. All right, thanks for your report, Jessica Yellin.

Well, supporters of the president's health care plan have started a new campaign to sell it to an increasingly skeptical American public. They are turning to the same grassroots machinery that helped President Obama win the White House. And they are using some of the same tactics ridiculed by Democrats leaders when they blasted opponents as Astroturfers.

Louise Schiavone with more.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a rough summer for the Obama administration's health care reform agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not specifically directed towards you but it is directed towards the White House and Pelosi, Reid and Waxman. I don't trust my government.

SCHIAVONE: A CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows the approval of the president's handling of health care is down to 44 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This still would practically bankrupt the economy of the United States government.

SCHIAVONE: Some Democrats charged these angry voters were cajoled by special interest groups to show up and shout. But now the Democrats are calling out their faithful, using the same grassroots organizing machinery that won the White House for Barack Obama.

Mitch Stewart is director of the Democrats Organizing for America.

MITCH STEWART, DIR., ORGANIZING FOR AMERICA: Since June 6th, we've had had over 12,000 events in over 2500 communities in every state and every congressional district in the country.

SCHIAVONE: They have a database of more than 10 million e-mail addresses and about two million volunteers.

STEWART: You're going to see us continuing to go out and work on behalf of the president's agenda.

SCHIAVONE: This long-time public relations executive says it's about time.

JOHN ASHFORD, HAWTHORN GROUP: They have to do it. They've got to create local, genuine, main street support for the administration and for health care reform or they're going to lose it.

SCHIAVONE: Also, analysts agree that voter confusion is costing support.

JOHN FORTIER, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The fact that there is no one plan on the table is getting people worried and really making it more of a larger philosophical discussion about how much government we want in our lives.

SCHIAVONE: The latest CNN poll showed two thirds of Americans called the health care debate confusing.


SCHIAVONE: Lisa, reforms fail, says PR expert John Ashford, when it's easier for members go home and explain why they voted against them than why they voted for them. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: All right, Louise Schiavone, reporting from Washington, thank you very much.

And coming up, is the federal stimulus program actually creating any jobs? That's the topic of the "Faceoff" debate tonight.

Also, our continuing coverage of health care around the word. Tonight, we take a look at the quality of health care in Turkey.

And the United States is bracing for another swine flu outbreak expected this fall.


SYLVESTER: President Obama today alerted the nation to be prepared for a new wave of swine flu this fall. Most of the country's confirmed cases from the spring outbreak of swine flu were actually in New York City. So New York is now taking steps to prevent being hit hard again in the fall.

Mary Snow now has our report.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bracing for another round of H1N1 or swine flu, President Obama was briefed by administration officials and urged Americans to use common sense steps to prepare and try to prevent spreading the virus.

OBAMA: We're also making state progress on developing a safe and effective H1N1 flu vaccine, and we expect a flu shot program will begin soon.

SNOW: Vaccines are expected in mid-October, and when they're ready, New York City plans on offering them free to city's one million-plus students.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: We'll leave it up to the parents of the students to decide whether their children will receive one, but all of them will have the option to have one if they want it. SNOW: But with the city schools re-opening next week and no vaccine yet available, officials are trying to prevent a repeat of last spring when New York became the country's apparent epicenter of the swine flu outbreak.

Officials now estimate up to one million New Yorkers may have already been infected and one big concern is that another wave will inundate emergency rooms with people who may not even be sick, rather just worried.

(On camera): You saw what happened last spring. Are you expecting a repeat of that?

NICOLAS CAGLIUSO, CONTINUUM SERVICES: We are expecting some repeat of it. And that's what we are preparing for.

SNOW: Hospitals like this one are stocking supplies and devising staffing plans. To help hospitals the city is readying flu centers and preparing to use volunteer health professions that include dentists and pharmacists if needed.

At this Queens hospital, which saw its emergency room patients double during an outbreak last spring, a cafeteria has been prepped to be used for swine flu patients.

DAVID ROSEN, PRES., MEDISYS HEALTH NETWORK: The availability of resources is at the very top of our list. That is our major concern, and we need those resources in every which way. So that is the weak spot.

SNOW (on camera): And as the city tries to contain the virus among the more than eight million people who live here, city officials also say they're going to do what they can not to close down schools saying they'll choose that option only as a last resort.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


SYLVESTER: OK, if you're concerned about being in a swine flu hot zone, well, you can find out for sure and track the outbreak from your iPhone. A new app called "Outbreaks Near Me," it collects data from the Internet and it can pinpoint outbreaks of the swine flu or other infectious diseases reported in your area if you absolutely have to know.

Well, we continue tonight with our coverage of health care systems around the world. Most of the countries that we have reported on have universal coverage, but they're not without problems.

Tonight, we take a look at Turkey. Health care there is a coverage of a mix of public, private and philanthropic efforts. Up to 20 percent of the population still, though, remains uncovered. Life expectancy in Turkey is just under 72 years, and as Brooke Baldwin reports, a major overhaul of the Turkish system is under way.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of very few large free-market democracies not to provide universal health care to all its citizens is Turkey. Its health care system has been described as fragmented in financing and delivery of health services to different sectors of society.

There are multiple types of coverage for government employees, those with jobs in the economy's formal sector, people who are self- employed, retirees, and the jobless.

ASSOC. PROF. HUGH WATERS, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: You have essentially the different schemes covering different parts of the population, and the last couple of years what the country has really put an emphasis on is to bring these together.

BALDWIN: The solution, the Health Transformation Program adopted in 2003 to be implemented over 10 years. The goal, to establish a universal health insurance under one umbrella. Enrollment eventually will be mandatory with contribution rates proportional to ability to pay and all beneficiaries entitled to the same benefits package.

For access to higher quality care, wealthier Turks, just 2 to 3 percent of the population, purchase private insurance as a primary source of coverage. Total house spending in Turkey accounted for 5.7 of GDP compared to 16 percent in the U.S.

Turkey spent $618 on health care per person per year and the United States that number comes to $7,290 per person.

But Turkey is making strides, registering one of the greatest gains in life expectancy among industrial nations in the last 40 years, currently 71.1 years versus 78 in the U.S. Still, many challenges remain. Prevention of disease, containment of cost, equality in access to services.

Turkey continues to have the lowest number of physicians per capita in the developed world. In 2006, Turkey had one physician per every 666 people, compared with 1 for every 416 in the United States. But doctors who are willing to treat patients in rural areas are getting recognized.

TOM BOSSERT, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: They are given extra payments for doing the right thing. There's a bonus, an encouragement to go to areas that are underserved. There's also a bonus for public health kinds of activities. Improving immunization, improving the maternal and child health care, anti-natal care and things like that.


BALDWIN: According to a 2008 review, Turkey appears to be one of very few middle-income countries to be effectively overhauling its health care system. Another sign of success, Turkey's infant mortality rate over the past decades, it has fallen dramatically, but still keep in mind here, Turkey's infant mortality rate, four times higher than that of the average large free market democracies.

Making strides, slowly by surely. Hopefully by 2013, they'll have it all together in terms of true universal coverage.

SYLVESTER: Yes, but these -- a report, I got to say, it's pretty fascinating to see what other countries are doing.


SYLVESTER: Compared to the United States. So great reporting, Brooke. Thanks so much.

BALDWIN: Thanks.

SYLVESTER: Appreciate it. And we will continue our coverage of health care systems around the world. Later in the week, health care in Cuba, Russia, and Brazil.

There are new signs that the economy may be improving, but is the stimulus package really creating any new jobs? That's the subject of our "Faceoff" debate tonight.

Also more than $1 billion federal jobs are going to retrain people who've been laid off. We'll examine if that program is working, and we'll check back for the very latest on those wildfires that are threatening thousands of homes near Los Angeles.



SYLVESTER: And now for our continuing series, "Dobbs and Jobs Now." The Obama administration has set aside more than $1 billion in stimulus money for job retraining programs, but the nation's unemployment rate at nearly 10 percent, many workers are turning to these programs in the hopes of landing a job. but are the programs really working?

Maria Ines Ferre has our report.


MARIA INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adults at this community college in Raleigh, North Carolina hope this class will be their ticket to a new job. Many of them are laid off workers now training for jobs in the biotech industry.

Karen Kwam who is in semiconductor manufacturing for 30 years.

KAREN KWAM, JOB TRAINEE: I've just experienced two plant closings and one work force reduction, so I see myself as a well trained individual that has a lot to give to a company.

FERRE: With a $250,000 federal stimulus grant, the college is expanding its program to target unemployed workers. The six-month training will focus on medical office administration, nursing assistance, office systems, heating and air conditioning, hospitality, and biotech.

STEVE SCOTT, WAKE TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE: The six we chose were ones where we could identify that there were jobs that were available for graduates of the program where they could go to work immediately.

FERRE: The Obama administration directed more than $4 billion in stimulus funds towards job training programs in the U.S. In Michigan, No Worker Left Behind has enrolled over 88,000 people in the state, many former auto workers. But critics worry that these programs don't always live up to workers' expectations.

One Labor Department survey shows that benefits from federally funded job training programs for skilled workers are marginal and take a few years to kick in. The report shows that three to four years after entering training, there is little evidence that training produces substantial benefits for laid off skilled workers.

CAROLYN HEINRICH, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: What they're looking to is to replace those earnings. They have mortgages, they have kids in college. And that's the difficult thing. They can transition to other jobs and gain new skills, but it's going to take a substantial investment.

FERRE: An investment in time. Doctor Heinrich says programs have been shortened to focus more on job placement. Without that in depth training, it takes longer for laid off workers to rebuild their careers.


FERRE: And neither the Michigan nor the North Carolina program could produce hard data on job placements yet, but their administrators say they're effective. Now what these training programs can't do though is create new jobs, and economists say they're only effective if the economy is actually creating new jobs.

SYLVESTER: Part of the problem, too, is you have people who might have been working in a manufacturing job and they might have had a fairly high pay rate and they go to say a service sector job and it just does not pay the same amount.

FERRE: Right, the salaries are really entry level jobs a lot of times, where they're going to.

SYLVESTER: And that's really hard if you've got a mortgage to pay and you've got to put food on the table. Really, really tough. All right, Maria Ines, thank you very much for that report.

Well that brings us to tonight's face-off. Is the president's stimulus plan creating jobs? Joining me now, Diana Furchtgott Roth. She is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and she says the stimulus plan is actually costing the country jobs. And Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. He believes the stimulus plan has created jobs and has slowed down job loss. We're going to first start off, I'll give you these two numbers, 9.4 percent, that's the unemployment rate as of July, and there are 30 million Americans looking for full-time work and can't find any jobs. Still, Lawrence, you say that the stimulus plan is working and has created jobs. Tell me why.

LAWRENCE MISHEL, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, because the stimulus plan injected around $90 billion of expenditure in the economy in the second quarter and it's doing about the same over the summer months.

We know they have provided fiscal relief to the states which actually prevented the states from layoffs and from cutting back vendors. We know that there were $13 billion went to Social Security recipients. An equal amount went to unemployment insurance recipients.

We know that businesses got tax cuts. All of this went to actually slow down the rate of economic decline. It didn't actually create job growth, but it did slow down the loss of jobs. We were losing jobs at 600,000 a month. Now we're losing them at 300,000.

That's not a victory, but it's a lot better off. This summer we expect that the economy will actually stop shrinking. It's not as good as a rapidly growing economy, but I think that's the first step in stabilization and recovery.

SYLVESTER: Diana, we have new unemployment numbers that will be coming out this week, 250,000 roughly jobs were lost in July and you say the stimulus plan is actually costing jobs in the country.

DIANA FURCHTGOTT ROTH, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Exactly. It's costing jobs because before it was passed, the White House said if we spend this $780 billion, then employment wouldn't rise above 8 percent. Now it's 9.4 percent and by some estimates, it's 16 percent. There's 14.5 million Americans out of work, millions more who are looking for full- time employment and Larry is saying that it actually helps?

Well, here's why it didn't help. All these big spending plans like the big stimulus chunk of money, the potentially $1 trillion health care plan, the $400 billion budget amount, all of this is going to have to be paid for. It's going to have to be paid for by tax increases. And the tax increase is coming down the pipe make any small business discourage from hiring workers.

January 1st, 2011, the top tax rate is going to go up to 39.6 percent because the Bush tax cuts are going to expire. House Democrats want a 5 percent surtax on top of that, bringing that to about 45 percent. Then there's the 8 percent payroll tax on employers who do not provide the right kind of health insurance to their workers. Then there's the 2.5 percent tax on workers who don't get health insurance. All these taxes make it very discouraging for any employer to hire anyone and also for people to work. And that is why the stimulus is having a negative effect.

SYLVESTER: OK Larry, you hear what Diana is saying. It basically boils down to businesses are going to be uncertain. They don't know what direction the economy is headed and that the stimulus, the deficit, it's a big drag on the economy and that's going to make them reluctant to retire. She sounds like she has a good point. Do you have a response to that?

MISHEL: I've got lots of responses. Well first of all, it's really hard to hear from anybody who favored the unregulated banking system that we have, the Bush tax cuts and all the policies that actually gave us this global recession to tell anybody how to do anything about how to run the economy. These potential tax increases that she's talking about aren't having an effect on the economy right now. Right now, people actually have lower taxes on account of this stimulus and that includes business. When you give $13 billion to Social Security recipients, they go out and spend that money. They go to Home Depot.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: Well no, savings have gone up, Larry. They have been saving the money.

MISHEL: Well, there's been a lot -- there's been a much better --

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: The savings rate is at an all-time high for the past 10 years.

MISHEL: But that's somewhat irrelevant, Diana.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: It's not irrelevant if they went out and spent it, it would create jobs.

MISHEL: I'm sorry, I'd like to be able to make my points, if I may.

SYLVESTER: Let me jump in here right now. Diana, do you think there should be a second stimulus package? I know some people, including Larry, they say they need to spend more money to stimulate the economy.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: What we need to do is take the stimulus money that is being passed and unspent, which is billions of dollars, give it back to the American people in tax cuts so they can spend it themselves and stimulate the economy.

That's what we need to do, is put it in the hands of Americans and announce that taxes are not going to go up for the next couple of years plus we're going to have a payroll tax cut to encourage employers to hire more workers. We want workers to hire more workers, we should have a payroll tax cut rather than telling them they're going to have an 8 percent tax.

MISHEL: I think Diana, and you ought to really look at what actually has already happened.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: I'm looking at the 14.5 years of unemployment, Larry.

MISHEL: I let you make your points. I'm going to make mine. Listen, there's already about $70 billion of tax cuts that will be in the economy by the end of September, including lower taxes for most workers and lower taxes for business. I have no idea what you're talking about. We tried the tax cut, tax cut, tax cut the way you wanted in the early 2000s and that ended up with the worst recovery, the worst business cycle on record.

SYLVESTER: Larry, I want you to respond to this. Larry, 57 percent, there was a "USA Today" poll recently, "USA Today"/Gallup poll, 57 percent of Americans they said the stimulus plan has not worked, and that it might have made things worse. So how do you respond to that? There seems to be at least some resistance to the first stimulus package, let alone having a second plan.

MISHEL: Well listen, you can understand that. We have been thrown into a really deep hole. We had 8.5 percent unemployment in March, even before the recovery package even started to work at all. It's not easy to make the case that things have gotten worse at a slower rate. People don't see jobs. I understand that. They need a lot more help. I think they should be angry at the people who threw us into this god awful global recession and the one thing that is getting us to turn it around right now is in fact this recovery package. It is working.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: The government doesn't know what it is doing. Look at the Cash for Clunkers Program. This was supposed to last through November 1st. The money was all used up after a week. Then they allocated more. There is no way to run a stimulus package.

MISHEL: Well, you know what, you know we're actually seeing auto production increasing. After the Cash for Clunkers, all of the economic forecasters increased their expectation for the rate of growth over the rest of the year. To say that doesn't work, that is absolutely just ignorant.

SYLVESTER: OK, Diana, final thoughts, we've got to wrap up. Diana, you get the final word, go ahead.

FURCHTGOTT ROTH: Well with Cash for Clunkers, it's typical of any administration's stimulus programs, we destroyed a batch of good cars and got people to buy new ones. And so they're not going to buy new ones next year. We might as well be destroying a new whole housing neighborhood and then building more and saying that this is stimulus. We need to give money back to the American people so they can go out and spend rather than the federal government spending and spending with no end in sight.

SYLVESTER: OK, well this has been a very stimulating debate, but we're going to have to end it there. Diana, thanks very much, appreciate your time. And Larry, thanks for coming on the show with us. Thanks very much.

Well, Brooke Baldwin, she has an update on other stories we are following tonight. Brooke, give us the update.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lisa, talking about those wildfires out in California, firefighters there as you know, battling those raging wildfires that are threatening thousands of homes. The largest fire has now burned more than 120,000 acres with flames reaching 120 feet into the air. Almost 4,000 firefighters now spread out across a 50-mile area fighting the flames that continue to spread. The fire remains only 5 percent contained. The fire department spokesperson said it could take weeks here to fully contain the fires.

And police are analyzing a bone fragment found near alleged kidnapper Phil Garrido's home. Garrido, the man accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and keeping her captive in his backyard for 18 years. Investigators are using cadaver dogs now to search in and around his property, and they're doing that because they're looking at a possible link to other unsolved cases in the area, including possible other kidnappings. Garrido was charged on charges of kidnapping and rape back in 1976 and was sentenced 50 years in prison. He served only 11 years before being paroled.

And police in Georgia now have identified those eight victims of a gruesome multiple murder in Georgia. They include a father, four of his children, as well as members of his extended family. The crime scene was discovered Saturday when Guy Heinze Jr. returned to his mobile home to find his family dead. He called 911 and said his family had been beaten to death. Heinze was later arrested for drug possession and making false statements, but police have not named him an official suspect here in the murders. One other victim remains in critical condition, but police have not released the name or an age. And Lisa, those are some of the stories we're following for you tonight.

SYLVESTER: All right, thanks for the full wrap up. Well coming up, President Obama's plummeting approval ratings, especially among Independents. What's behind the fall, and can he recover? We'll have the answers next.


SYLVESTER: Joining me now in Washington, president of Christie Strategies and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Ron Christie. And here in New York, the New York bureau chief for the "Washington Post," Keith Richburg. And Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hank Sheinkopf. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

First, I want to get started. President Obama talking about the economy, he had some positive things to say. Let's take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the first time in 18 months, our manufacturing sector has expanded and the statistics used to measure manufacturing output is the highest its been in over two years. This means greater production of transportation equipment like cars, electronic equipment like computers and appliances, and it means these companies are starting to invest more and produce more, and it's a sign that we're on the path to economic recovery.


SYLVESTER: All right, Hank, let's get started with you. You know, that doesn't paint the whole picture. You have 2 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since this recession started. Is this a turn around for the economy and really for the White House on this issue?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm not confident to talk economics, but I can talk politics. And sure, when you have good news, you try to share it, especially when you have to roll the health care package up the Hill and worry about next year's congressional elections.

SYLVESTER: Yes, this White House has a lot on its plate. They're of course worried about the economy. They're trying to push this health care plan through. Take a look at these poll numbers. This is not necessarily good news for those sitting at the White House right now.

Take a look, we've got the screen up right now, 53 percent, that's President Obama's approval rating. And see how it compares, July it was 56 percent, in June it was 61 percent. So Ron, let me toss it to you. Do these numbers matter?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER ADVISER FOR BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I think they do matter, Lisa. I think they matter because the American people were told by the president way back in the beginning of the year when he came into office that his $787 billion stimulus plan would really turn the country around.

It hasn't thus far. The president has gone out and made a very personal plea to the American people to pass health care reform saying that it was going to save money and it was going to revitalize the way that we deliver health care. And I think that the American people have taken the sum of the president's promises and put them versus the reality of how things are going and say President Obama's not delivering. And I think that's the exact reason why you see his numbers continue to go down. And one thing I would look at is what's going to happen on Friday when the unemployment numbers come out? If those unemployment numbers go up, I think the president's approval ratings will continue to go down.

SYLVESTER: Keith, your thoughts.

KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: Well first of all, he's at 53 percent. I mean, come on, that's over a majority. That's exactly what he got during the election. So what you have seen is the Republicans and a lot of the Independents who were with him during the honeymoon period have now moved away. But he's at 53 percent. So come on, this is a tumble, but he's still in good territory.

As for the stimulus, we all know, we've been saying this, economists have been saying this for years, it's going to be a jobless recovery. You're going to start seeing manufacturing going up, reason that they've being that they've shed so many jobs now that they are able to produce with a smaller work force.

And it's really too early. I heard your other debate going on, the face off. You can't judge the stimulus package now. Look, a third of that money went to tax cuts and then you had millions of it going to aid to the states like here in New York where they were going to lay off teachers, they couldn't hire policemen. That went directly to prevent these layoffs. The rest of it, the bulk of it, which is transportation, infrastructure, et cetera, which is really going to produce jobs, that wasn't even slated to kick in until next year. So it's really too early to start judging whether the stimulus is a failure or not.

SYLVESTER: Yes, is this trim though worrisome, I mean you've got the downward numbers. There's no doubt about it, you take a look at it, the guy's numbers are down. Hank?

SHEINKOPF: Not a problem. He's in the first year of his term. He's had some controversial issues to deal with. The Republicans would like to see the numbers go down and make a big hay out of them and after all, they gave us the economic disaster and they gave us the war disaster. So why shouldn't they want it? It's a bump in the road and frankly, over 50 percent, that's a pretty good place to be at this point.

RICHBURG: And can I just add, he got savaged in August with the town halls and the shouting and people talking about death panels and I say he's still at 53 percent. That ain't bad.

CHRISTINE: Of course, I'd say to that, he didn't get savaged. I think it was the American people having the opportunity to look at what was in the details of his health care plan. But look at this. You say that the stimulus debate was not supposed to go on -- or I should say the stimulus money wasn't supposed to go out that quickly. The president said that if the stimulus package was passed, that we would have unemployment no higher than 8 percent. Now we're at 9.5 percent. I think there's a certain level of contradictions with what the president says and what he forecasted and where the American people find themselves. That's why the numbers continue to go down.

SHEINKOPF: Ron, we don't live in a "John Wayne" movie. Things don't get resolved that are this critical created by several multiple years of mismanagement overnight. The guy is doing the best he can with tools that are broken. And he's repaired tools on top, 53 percent, I will take it. That's a big win as far as I'm concerned.

CHRISTIE: Hank, I would only come back to you, my friend, and say this. You are looking at a revised budget deficit projection of $3 trillion that this administration has done with its policies. It took between 1789 and the year 2009 to rack up $5.3 trillion. This president in less than a year has added $3 trillion. That, my friend, is why I think people are very discouraged with the direction this administration is taking.

SYLVESTER: OK, we are going to hold it there and we're going to take a break. We will be back with our panel in just a moment and some fireworks at a town hall in Maryland happening right now. Stay with us.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: The bill does not put government between and you your doctor. Right now, of course, insurance companies are between you and your doctor.


SYLVESTER: All right. Congressman Steny Hoyer, you're listening to some of -- a live town hall meeting. You heard the reaction. People out there in America are not necessarily happy with what they are seeing. And Democrats are still talking possibly about going it alone of basically saying we don't need the Republican support. But Senator Lamar Alexander, he said that would wreck the healthcare system and that would wreck the Democratic Party. Do you agree, Hank?

SHEINKOPF: I don't believe it will wreck the Democratic Party, nor the health care system. But what might happen is that pollsters in Washington are going to be very busy polling those congressional districts because what politicians don't like is to be out of work and congressmen are no different. They are going to find out whether this stuff works. But first, they need a bill. That they don't have yet.

SYLVESTER: OK, we are running out of time. So I want to get to Afghanistan. President Obama is scheduled to receive a classified assessment tomorrow. Afghanistan, there is the -- things are not going very well. We have seen, unfortunately, the war death count, it has increased substantially this past summer.

And we have got numbers that show many people are opposing the war in Afghanistan and that's on the rise. We can put a screen up to show our viewers. In April it was 46 percent opposing the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now it's at 57 percent. Keith, I know you've spent some time there. Your thoughts?

RICHBURG: Absolutely. I was talking to a 14-year-old kid the other week at the Woodstock reunion wearing a peace symbol. And I said what is the peace symbol for? And she said we have been at war since I was six. I mean, that's -- we have been in there a long time.

And he's talking about increasing the troops by thousands, if he follows this recommendation. The problem is he has not laid out clearly to the American people in a primetime speech why this is necessary, what the goal is. Nobody still knows what the goal is and what's our exit strategy?

And you go to Afghanistan and some of the roughest terrain in the world. I have been to a lot of places in Somalia and the horn of Africa, et cetera. Afghanistan is rough terrain. The British couldn't conquer it. The Soviets couldn't conquer it. You can't go in there even with 200,000 troops and secure these isolated mountain villages when the Taliban, your enemy, they don't wear uniforms. They blend in with the population. We can't stay there forever in these villages. We're moving around. We leave, they come back. It is a really tough job. And I don't know what the strategy is, what the mission is, what the exit strategy is.

SYLVESTER: All right. Ron, you are going to get the final word here. And you know, this is something I'm hearing from Democrats and Republicans, that this White House is very vague and they don't seem to have a clear-cut plan. That's hurting them. Do you agree?

CHRISTIE: I absolutely agree, Lisa, and I think if you look from the health care debate, if you look at the war on terrorism that they now call overseas contingency operations, this administration needs to lay out to the American people in very clear, concise and concrete terms why it is important to remain in Afghanistan, why it is important that their health care policies are the ones that should be enacted and why the American people should believe them. Until they can do that, until they can make the clear case, I think their numbers are going to continue go down. They're going to have a very, very difficult time on message.

SYLVESTER: All right, we've got to end there. Thank you, gentlemen, very much for your time, Ron, Hank, and Keith. And to our viewers, we will be right back.


SYLVESTER: Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us here, good night from New York. Next, Campbell Brown.