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Steve Chiotakis: Today of course is a big day not only for President-elect Obama, but for Washington, D.C. People from everywhere are clogging streets and buying souvenirs. And they’re awaiting a glimpse at the nation’s new First Family. While most won’t be attending a ball tonight — it is rather expensive to do that — there will be plenty to do for those who did make that journey. Here’s Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer.
Nancy Marshall Genzer: So, here you are in downtown Washington. You paid a lot for your plane ticket and hotel room. You don’t have the cash or connections for inaugural tickets. So, you push your way onto the National Mall near the Capitol. Luckily for you, Obama’s inaugural committee paid for huge Jumbo-trons, so you can watch the swearing in. You can also text the committee for updates on inaugural activities.
Stephen Hess is a presidential historian at the Brookings Institution. He says there’s a reason Obama is organizing all this fanfare for the common man:
Stephen Hess: This was a campaign that reached out to everybody, that cut across class, cut across race. And the inauguration’s gotta reflect that.
It’s gotta pay for it, too. The inaugural committee gave $700,000 to the Smithsonian Institution so it could open some of its museums early today. The museums are bracing for hoards of visitors.
Brent Glass runs the National Museum of American History. Standing protectively in front of a new Lincoln exhibit, Glass is reminded of another president who threw a party for average Joes: Andrew Jackson. He was the last president to throw a huge, public party at the White House in 1829. Drunken crowds trashed the place. Glass expects better from the Obama crowd.
Brent Glass: They’re not going to be drinking as they were in Andrew Jackson’s day, where public drunkenness was a problem.
Alcohol will be served at a number of free or low-priced balls sponsored by the inaugural committee. There’ll be a neighborhood ball for Washington residents, and a half-price Youth Ball.
But inclusiveness is expensive. The inaugural committee’s budget is $50 million. That’s about $10 million more than the last Bush inauguration.
Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass says there’ll be no cutting the rug at some balls.
Linda Douglass: We are not putting carpet in one of the balls at all. We are re-using old carpet, we are re-using staging material to put the stages up.
That material could include leftovers from previous inaugurations.
In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.
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