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Obama agenda: Economic turnaround?

The New York Times front-pages, "Manufacturing expanded in the United States in December, the fifth straight month of gains, amplifying hopes that a job market hobbled by double-digit unemployment might finally be adding paychecks. New jobless claims slipped markedly last week. Some economists think data to be released on Friday will show the economy gained jobs in December, the first monthly net increase in two years. 'We're really coming back,' said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. 'The expansion is picking up the pace.'"

"But many economists remain worried that momentum could soon weaken, with the economy sliding back into glum times. Indeed, the only area in which economists can reliably declare expansion is in the supply of competing narratives about the economy — perhaps to be expected in any transition between downturn and the inevitable turn for better."

"The recession dramatically slowed U.S. health care spending to $2.3 trillion in 2008, but it still grew much faster than the economy as a whole, accounting for more than 16 percent of the nation's economic output, says a new federal analysis," the AP says. "The eye-popping figure of $2.3 trillion -- that's $7,681 per person -- underscores the challenges confronting President Barack Obama and lawmakers seeking to overhaul the system. Obama has repeatedly cited spiraling health costs as one of the main reasons Congress needs to pass his health plan, and administration officials said the findings highlighted the need for quick action."

"The saga of President Obama's first state dinner continues," the New York Times writes. "The Secret Service said Monday that a third uninvited guest gained entry to the dinner at the White House on Nov. 24. A review of video from the party, which was held to honor the prime minister of India, showed that a man wearing a tuxedo entered with members of the Indian delegation."