Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

Horsley spent a decade on the White House beat, covering both the Trump and Obama administrations. Before that, he was a San Diego-based business reporter for NPR, covering fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He also reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley worked for NPR Member stations in San Diego and Tampa, as well as commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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The widening gulf between the rich and everyone else is a growing source of tension in America.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds the income gap is now seen as a bigger source of conflict in the U.S. than race, age or national origin. That's why some believe the issue could matter in the presidential campaign, and others worry it could warp the national debate.

Two out of three Americans now perceive strong social conflicts over the income gap — up sharply from two years ago. Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center has an idea what's behind the increase.

The central argument of Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is that he understands how the economy works — thanks to his business background — in a way that President Obama does not.

Democrats have been challenging the former Massachusetts governor's claim that the private equity firm he founded helped to create more than 100,000 jobs. Now, some of Romney's Republican rivals are raising questions of their own.

President Obama acknowledged Friday that the economic recovery has a long way to go. Still, he was able to share some good news. The Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added 200,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent.

"Obviously, we have a lot more work to do," he said, "but it is important for the American people to recognize that we've now added 3.2 million new private-sector jobs over the last 22 months."

Those better-than-expected numbers could help Obama as he tries to hang onto his own job.

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Even as President Obama relaxes with his family in Hawaii over the holidays, he knows what's on the horizon when he returns to work in Washington.

He will start where he left off, facing new skirmishes with Congress over a push to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes. That temporary extension was approved just days before Christmas after a high-stakes gamble that finished only after most of Congress had left for the year.

First in a series

Visiting a metal fabrication plant in Sioux City this December, Mitt Romney touted his successful business background, saying those qualifications are what America needs right now.

"I want to use the experience I have in the world of the free enterprise system to make sure that America gets working again. ... These are tough times," said the Republican presidential candidate. "You guys have jobs. Hope your spouses do. But I know these are tough times."

But not as tough in Iowa as in many other parts of the country.

The Republican presidential contest remains fluid less than three weeks before the caucuses and primaries begin. Nationwide, nearly one in five GOP voters is still undecided. And in Iowa, candidates are making their final push before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Friday told workers at a metal fabricating plant in Sioux City, Iowa: "I am running in this race because I understand how to get middle-class Americans prosperous again, working again, buying things, and putting more Americans back to work."

The day after the final debate before the primaries, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigned in Iowa. He also picked up the endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

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President Obama doesn't have to worry about winning the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. He's almost sure to be the only Democrat in the first-in-the-nation contest. Yet that hasn't stopped the Obama campaign from organizing its own effort to get out the vote.

While Republican candidates have been hogging the Iowa spotlight, a small army of Obama volunteers has been busy behind the scenes. They've opened eight campaign offices around the state, hosted dozens of house parties, and logged tens of thousands of telephone calls.

President Obama lost a couple of economic battles on Capitol Hill on Thursday, but he is hoping to win the political war. The president vows to keep fighting for policies he says will benefit the broad middle class.

As Obama spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room, an electronic clock behind him ticked down the minutes, hours and days until year's end. That's when a payroll tax cut is due to expire, unless Congress votes to extend it.

Economic Skirmishes

President Obama will try Tuesday to follow in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt when he delivers an economic speech in Osawatomie, Kan., the same city where Roosevelt issued a famous call for a "New Nationalism" more than 100 years ago.

For Obama, this is a "connect-the-dots" speech. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it's a chance to show how the president's various economic proposals — from stricter banking oversight to payroll tax cuts — fit together, as Obama prepares for a re-election battle.

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At NPR, we know a thing or two about promotional merchandise. After all, we invented the Nina Totin' Bag and the Carl Kasell Autograph Pillow. So, on this Black Friday, White House correspondent Scott Horsley presents the NPR guide to campaign swag.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Within the Republican presidential field, no one has talked tougher about China than Mitt Romney. He has vowed to go after that country from his first day in office, threatening to slap tariffs on Chinese imports to make up for its artificially low currency.

"We can't just sit back and let China run all over us," Romney said. "People say, 'Well, you'll start a trade war.' There's one going on right now, folks. They're stealing our jobs. And we're going to stand up to China."

President Obama has kept his distance from the supercommittee. Unlike the budget battles earlier this year, there were no bargaining sessions at the White House and no presidential motorcades to Capitol Hill.

Even as President Obama announced the troop withdrawal from Iraq on Friday, he acknowledged the U.S. now faces a bigger challenge: creating opportunity and jobs in this country.

"After a decade of war, the nation that we need to build — and the nation that we will build — is our own," he said, "an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe."

President Obama, a critic of the Iraq War from the beginning, announced Friday that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of December. After nearly nine years, he said, the war will be over.

The president spoke after a videoconference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The White House says the two men agreed this is the best way forward for both countries.

The president's announcement fulfills a campaign promise he made more than four years ago.

President Obama said Moammar Gadhafi's death marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the Libyan people. The seven-month military campaign that toppled the Libyan leader also marks a high point for the kind of international cooperation that Obama has championed.

The White House was careful Thursday not to claim vindication for the president's policies, but the Libyan exercise does offer an example of what an "Obama Doctrine" might look like.

President Obama's bus tour rolled into Virginia on Tuesday afternoon, after a day and a half in North Carolina.

The president has been using the tour to promote his jobs plan and to criticize an alternative plan put forward by Senate Republicans.

Another Day, Another Diner

Earlier Tuesday, the president stopped at Reid's House Restaurant in Reidsville, N.C., bypassing the special — spaghetti and Texas toast — in favor of a cheeseburger and sweet tea.

President Obama is drawing sharp contrasts between his jobs plan and the ideas put forward by Republicans in Congress as he continues his bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia. That may not bring his jobs plan any closer to passing, but it does help frame the argument for the 2012 election.

Obama is urging Congress to pass his jobs bill piece by piece if necessary. And the piece he was highlighting Monday night in an overheated high school gym in Millers Creek, N.C., would use federal tax dollars to help local governments keep teachers and other employees on the payroll.

Third in a series

GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman says he is the most qualified Republican in the White House race, thanks to his background as governor of Utah, a corporate executive, and U.S. ambassador to China. But if Huntsman had lived out his youthful ambition, he would have been none of those things.

"My initial passion in life was to be a rock 'n' roll musician," Huntsman told graduates at the University of South Carolina in May.

President Obama has waded into the controversy over bank-card fees, suggesting that Bank of America is mistreating its customers with a plan to start charging a $5 monthly fee for the use of its debit card.

In an interview Monday with ABC, the president seemed to suggest the fee could become a target for the federal government's new financial watchdog agency.

"This is exactly why we need this Consumer [Financial] Protection Bureau that we set up, that is ready to go," he said.

President Obama says his jobs plan would create tens of thousands of construction jobs by funding public works projects like roads, bridges and school improvements.

The president made that case again Tuesday afternoon, while standing outside Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver.

The Mile High City is familiar turf for Obama: It's where he accepted his party's nomination for the White House three years ago; and it's where he signed the original economic stimulus bill.

At the time, he said it marked the beginning of the end of the nation's economic troubles.

With the White House and Congress at loggerheads over how best to help the U.S. economy, some have pinned their hopes on the Federal Reserve to help fill the void.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the central bank still has a range of tools it can use to prop up the economy. But Greg McBride of the financial website Bankrate.com is not holding his breath.

For the second time in less than a week, President Obama on Wednesday visited a college campus, touting his new jobs plan. He told supporters at North Carolina State University that if Congress goes along with his proposal for tax cuts and new government spending, it will help to restore middle-class jobs.

A new CNN poll shows more Americans support the president's jobs plan than oppose it.

But that survey and others also find widespread disappointment with the U.S. economy — and Obama's handling of it.

President Obama is selling his jobs plan as a much-needed shot in the arm for a still struggling economy. It includes new public works projects, help for local school districts, training opportunities for those who have been out of work a long time, and more than $200 billion in tax cuts for workers and the companies that hire them.

President Obama will attempt a Hail Mary pass when he speaks to a joint session of Congress tonight. He'll be asking for immediate help to boost job growth, after a month in which U.S. hiring came to a virtual standstill.

"The time for action is now," Obama told supporters in Detroit earlier this week. "Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs. Now is the time for them to worry about your jobs."

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