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Confidence is wavering at home over Obama's plans for mortgage reform, as evidenced by the Dow Jones industrial average sinking to a six-year low after an hour of market fits, closing below 7,500 on Thursday. With a missile crisis heating up abroad and recent Guantanamo hearings calling into question Obama's dedication to change, the 'Meter musters a 28.
The market plunged on Thursday after the president's announcement of a new plan to spend $75 billion helping those facing foreclosure. Seems Wall Street is forecasting a belly-flop. Obama said the plan would help up to 9 million homeowners gain more affordable mortgage terms. That's worth 30 points. Obama has announced a bevy of reforms in the past week to boost the economy, help banks stay afloat, and help struggling homeowners, too. But it's pretty clear that attitudes have hardly been stimulated.
What fares worse: Analysts suspect little change in consumer spending habits as folks feel out concerns about the effectiveness of Obama's stimulus bill and continuing reforms. Judgment will have to be postponed on the foreclosure package until further details are disclosed in early March. But the 'Meter deducts 10 for the market reaction and lack of confidence.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her globe-trotting, stopping in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday to meet with various leaders about an agitated North Korea. With signs of long-range missile preparations developing in the country, the pit stop shows the United States is a little concerned about the snag in nuclear negotiations this week. North Korea recently annulled a set of agreements on its nuclear program, dampening all attempts to negotiate. To make matters murkier, Clinton broke taboo by talking publicly about life after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who suffered a stroke in August. The New York Times notes such candor could either upset key players such as China, or it could loosen tense dynamics. Clinton's concern about Kim's grip on power suggests it weighs heavily on the mind of the Obama administration, and she promises to pursue the missile moratorium that started in her husband's second term and was later dropped by the Bush administration. Despite the wavering confidence, the hard-fisted peace push is good for 10 points.
Lastly, Eric Holder is en route to Guantanamo early next week, but all that change may not be what it seems. The Times notes that while Obama's administration has been pulling back from formerly contested policies of the "war on terror," it has yet to announce its views on other aspects of Bush's approach to dealing with al-Qaida. So far, Obama's team has agreed to continue transferring prisoners to places without legal rights, as well as to hold detainees indefinitely and without trials. These signals show that a shift in attitude may not be as change-ridden as many thought. The 'Meter deducts 2 points for skepticism.
There's a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky. E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.