Thanks, Obama! Americans’ Standard of Living Continues to Free Fall

October 20, 2011

Think life is not as good as it used to be, at least in terms of your wallet? You’d be right about that. The standard of living for Americans has fallen longer and more steeply over the past three years than at any time since the US government began recording it five decades ago.

Bottom line: The average individual now has $1,315 less in disposable income than he or she did three years ago at the onset of the Great Recession – even though the recession ended, technically speaking, in mid-2009. That means less money to spend at the spa or the movies, less for vacations, new carpeting for the house, or dinner at a restaurant.

In short, it means a less vibrant economy, with more Americans spending primarily on necessities. The diminished standard of living, moreover, is squeezing the middle class, whose restlessness and discontent are evident in grass-roots movements such as the tea party and “Occupy Wall Street” and who may take out their frustrations on incumbent politicians in next year’s election.

What has led to the most dramatic drop in the US standard of living since at least 1960? One factor is stagnant incomes: Real median income is down 9.8 percent since the start of the recession through this June, according to Sentier Research in Annapolis, Md., citing census bureau data. Another is falling net worth – think about the value of your home and, if you have one, your retirement portfolio. A third is rising consumer prices, with inflation eroding people’s buying power by 3.25 percent since mid-2008.

The so-called misery index, another measure of economic well-being of American households, echoes the finding on the slipping standard of living. The index, a combination of the unemployment rate and inflation, is now at its highest point since 1983, when the US economy was recovering from a short recession and from the energy price spikes after the Iranian revolution.

From:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/44962589

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Obama’s Approval Rating On Economy Plummets To 33% in New Poll

October 19, 2011

A majority of Americans think President Obama’s $447 biillion proposal to create jobs will not actually help lower the unemployment rate, according to a poll released Wednesday by Bloomberg.

And his overall approval rating on the economy fell to 33 percent from 39 percent in June. His approval rating on the economy was 43 percent in March.

His economic disapproval ratings rose to 67 percent from 57 percent in June and 52 percent in March.

Those are grim numbers for the White House and the trend is clearly going in the wrong direction just as the campaign season heats up.

Core Support Decline

Of the respondents who said they’ve supported Obama at one point since he launched his presidential campaign in 2007, fewer than half say they still support him as fervently.

Thirty-seven percent say their support has waned and 19 percent say he lost their backing because they’ve grown disappointed or angry with his leadership.

Almost a third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents say they’d like to see Obama face a primary challenge.

From:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20105949-503544.html


Obama “Recovery” Continues: Lowe’s Closes 20 Stores, Lays Off 1,950 Workers

October 17, 2011

(Reuters) – Lowe’s Cos Inc is closing 20 of its U.S. locations and eliminating nearly 2,000 jobs, and the home improvement retailer is slashing its store-opening plans to improve profitability.

Lowe’s, which operates about 1,700 stores in the United States, said on Monday that it had closed 10 on Sunday and would close another 10 within a month.

Some 1,950 workers will be laid off. As of January, Lowe’s had 161,000 full-time and 73,000 part-time employees.

The company also said it planned to open only 10 to 15 new North American stores per year starting in 2012, down from a previous goal of 30.

Shares of Lowe’s were up 2.8 percent at $21.37 in morning trading.

Chief Executive Officer Robert Niblock said in a statement that the company had to “make tough decisions” to improve profitability.

Lowe’s has been slower to cut costs than market leader Home Depot Inc , whose sales at stores open a year or more have beaten its rival’s for nine straight quarters.

“This continues (Lowe’s) progress toward becoming a more efficient operator,” Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser said in a research note on Monday. “Management is making significant changes that should improve returns.”

Expenses from the closings will come to between $100 million and $130 million, including lease obligations, employee layoffs and inventory adjustments, Lowe’s said. It expects to record those charges in its current and next quarters, according to a regulatory filing.

Including noncash expenses, the closings and abandoned store openings will reduce earnings by 17 cents to 20 cents per share this fiscal year, Lowe’s estimated.

Lowe’s reduced its full-year sales and profit outlook in August as U.S. homeowners put off renovations. It also announced plans to buy back $5 billion of its shares.

Lowe’s becomes the latest retailer to pare the number of stores it operates amid tepid consumer demand.

Gap Inc last week affirmed a plan announced in June to close 200 of its 889 namesake U.S. stores, while luxury retailer Saks Inc has closed seven of its department stores in the past two years and plans to eventually close a few more over time.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Lisa Von Ahn)

From: http://www.portfolio.com/business-news/reuters/2011/10/17/lowes-closes-stores-lays-off-1950-workers


It’s Official: Obama Has Now Increased Debt More than All Presidents Combined

October 5, 2011

The Obama administration passed another fiscal milestone this week, according to new data released by the Treasury Department.

As of the close of business on Oct. 3, the total national debt was $14,837,099,271,196.71—up about $44.8 billion from Sept. 30.

That means that in the less-than-three-years Obama has been in office, the federal debt has increased by $4.212 trillion — more than the total national debt of about $4.1672 trillion accumulated by all 41 U.S. presidents from George Washington through George H.W. Bush combined.

This $4.212-trillion increase in the national debt means that during Obama’s term the federal government has already borrowed about an additional $35,835 for every American household — or $44,980 for every full-time private-sector worker.

(According to the Census Bureau there were about 117,538,000 households in the country in 2010, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 93,641,000 full-time private-sector workers.)

When Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the Treasury Department, the total national debt stood at $10,626,877,048,913.08.

At the end of January 1993, the month that President George H. W. Bush left office, the total national debt was $4.1672 trillion, according to the Treasury.

Thus, the total national debt accumulated by the first 41 presidents combined was about $44.8 billion less than the approximately $4.212 trillion in new debt added during Obama’s term.

As of Monday, Obama had been in office 986 days—or about 32 and a half months. During that time, the debt increased at an average pace of $4.27 billion per day.

Were that rate to continue until Obama’s term ends on Jan. 20, 2013, the debt would then stand at about $16.86534 trillion—an increase of more than $6.2 trillion for Obama’s four years.

That would equal nearly $53,000 for each American household or more than $66,000 for each full-time private-sector worker.

From:  http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-has-now-increased-debt-more-all-presidents-george-washington-through-george-hw


“Anyone But Obama” Voters Growing in Numbers…

October 5, 2011

Four in 10 Americans “strongly” disapprove of how President Obama is handling the job of president in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, the highest that number has risen during his time in office and a sign of the hardening opposition to him as he seeks a second term.

While the topline numbers are troubling enough, dig deeper into them and the news gets no better for Obama. Forty-three percent of independents — a group the president spent the better part of the last year courting — strongly disapprove of the job he is doing. Forty-seven percent of people 65 years of age and older — reliable voters in any election — strongly disapprove of how he is doing his job.

Strong opposition to Obama has grown markedly since the start of the year.

In a mid-January Post-ABC survey, 28 percent strongly disapproved of the job Obama was doing. With the exception of a poll in early May that followed hard on the killing of Osama bin Laden , that number has steadily ticked upward, as the year has worn on and the economy has remained sluggish (at best).

And even as his strong disapproval numbers have risen, Obama’s strong approval numbers have gone into a mirror-image decline.

In January, 30 percent strongly approved of the job Obama was doing. In the latest Post-ABC survey, that numbers is 21 percent and, as recently as early August, it had dipped to 18 percent.

All of those numbers — and yes, we here at the Fix do love us some poll numbers — point to a simple fact: The “anyone but Obama” crowd is getting larger and more strident in its opinions, while the president’s base is growing less and less strongly supportive of how he is doing his job.

From:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/opposition-to-obama-grows–strongly/2011/10/04/gIQAlch2ML_blog.html


Michelle Obama’s South Africa Vacation Cost Taxpayers $432,142 – Have YOU Had a Half Million Dollar Vacation Lately?

October 5, 2011

First lady Michelle Obama’s family trip to South Africa and Botswana in June cost taxpayers well over $424,000, according to new accounting based on Air Force manifests obtained by Judicial Watch, a taxpayer watchdog group.

The use of Air Force aircraft alone for the June 21-27 trip cost $424,142, said the group, and that doesn’t include the food, lodging, and ground transportation for the 21 family and staff members.

Judicial Watch said it based the jet costs on the Pentagon’s hourly rates for the C-32A aircraft used for the trip. The documents don’t give exact cost calculations, which is typical for presidential and first family trips.

Obama is like many first ladies, spending summers traveling on good-will missions, sometimes with family and friends. On the June trip, during which she was accompanied by her daughters and mother, the first lady urged young people to engage with their governments and she pushed her education and wellness agenda. They also took a safari in South Africa, well known for its beautiful Lion King-like settings.

The costs of the trips have often won media scorn, as did her trip to Spain the previous summer.

But presidential experts say that the value of first lady visits is priceless, especially in cases like Obama’s to Africa where the first family has special ties and where the president has been pursuing a personal agenda, especially in Kenya, the home of his father.

Here is a link to the Judicial Watch files and their release:

Charges for the Aircraft and Crew Alone Amount to $424,142

Contact Information:

Washington, DC — October 4, 2011

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained mission expense records and passenger manifests from the United States Air Force related to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch obtained the documents pursuant to an August 19, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Air Force (No. 11-1496)). Judicial Watch is investigating the purpose and itinerary of the trip as well as a breakdown of the costs to taxpayers.

On June 28, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request seeking the mission taskings, transportation records, and passenger manifests for Michelle Obama’s Africa trip. Documents were only provided after Judicial Watch filed suit:

• According to U.S. Department of Defense’s published hourly rates for the C-32A aircraft used for the trip, Judicial Watch calculated the total cost to American taxpayers was $424,142 for use of the aircraft (34.8 flight hours x $12,188 per hour). (The C-32 is a specially configured military version of the Boeing 757.) Other expenses – meals (off the plane), transportation, security, various services, etc. – have yet to be disclosed.

• The passenger manifests confirm the presence of Obama’s daughter’s, Malia and Sasha on the trip. The two girls are listed as “Senior Staff.” The manifests also list Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, and niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, as well Mrs. Obama’s makeup and hairstylist (Carl Ray and Johnny Wright).

• The expense records also show $928.44 was spent for “bulk food” purchases on flight. Overall, during the trip, 192 meals were served for the 21 passengers on board.

The professed purpose of Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa and Botswana was to encourage young people living in the two growing democracies to become involved in national affairs; and during her scheduled stops in Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa and in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, the First Lady used the opportunity to speak on education, health and wellness issues.

The trip also included such tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums, plus a nonworking chance to send time with Nelson Mandela, a meeting that Mrs. Obama described as “surreal.” The trip ended with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to Washington on June 27.

“This trip was as much an opportunity for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a trip to conduct government business,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This junket wasted tax dollars and the resources of our overextended military. No wonder we had to sue to pry loose this information.”

Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered that the First Couple’s 2009 “date night” trip to New York for dinner and a Broadway show cost taxpayers over $11,000 in Secret Service costs alone.

From:  http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2011/10/04/michelle-obamas-africa-vacation-cost-more-than-432142