Category : The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007–

(NYT) A Bigger Economic Pie, but a Smaller Slice for Half of the U.S.

Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades.

The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school.

Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found.

This group ”” the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder ”” “has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s,” the team of economists found.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(NYT) A Rebounding Economy Remains Fragile for Many

The eye-popping improvement in economic fortunes last year raises the question: If incomes are up and poverty is down, why is Donald J. Trump’s message of economic decay resonating so broadly?

The answer is in plain sight. While the economy finally is moving in the right direction, the real incomes of most American households still are smaller than in the late 1990s. And large swaths of the country ”” rural America, industrial centers in the Rust Belt and Appalachia ”” are lagging behind.

“We ain’t feeling too much of all that economic growth that I heard was going on, patting themselves on the back,” said Ralph Kingan, the mayor of Wright, Wyo. “It ain’t out in the West.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Bloomberg) The Brutal Journey Back to Work for Millions of Americans

…63-year-old [Phyllis Swenson of] Fairfax, Virginia, resident is among millions of Americans who haven’t rebounded with the improving U.S. economy. Part-time work at Vienna Presbyterian doesn’t pay all her bills, and almost a year of futile job-hunting has left her desperate.

“Recovery?” she scoffs. “How are we recovering?”

The labor market has staged a strong comeback: Unemployment is 4.7 percent, down from 9.5 percent when the economy started expanding in June 2009. Employers have added an average 150,000 jobs a month this year, though May slowed to just 38,000. The rate at which people quit, a handy measure of job mobility, is trending up.
Yet some Americans still feel a deep sense of betrayal. Their journey back to meaningful work has been brutal — if they even arrived — leaving them with depleted savings, increased debt, homes lost to lenders and for some, long searches that stripped away their most valuable possession: self-esteem. Many who did find jobs now earn less, with fewer benefits.

This has helped fuel Donald Trump’s improbable rise and Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge to Hillary Clinton. Thousands cheer at rallies when the Republican front-runner claims he’ll put people back to work and the Democratic contender rails against income inequality.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Nearly 1/3 of US adults, abt 76 mill. people, are “struggling to get by” or “just getting by"

In the United States, nearly one-third of adults, about 76 million people, are either “struggling to get by” or “just getting by,” according to the third annual survey of households by the Federal Reserve Board.

That finding, dismal though it is, represents a mild improvement in general well-being last year, compared with the two years before. The improvement, however, was clearly too little to raise Americans’ spirits: The new survey, which was conducted in late 2015 and released last week, also shows that optimism about the future has tempered.

The Fed policy committee should take the survey to heart when it meets this month to decide whether to raise interest rates. Higher rates are a way to slow an economy that is at risk of overheating ”” a far-fetched proposition when tens of millions of Americans are barely hanging in there.

Read it all from the New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(Atlantic) Neal Gabler–The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5””literally””while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer””five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do””until now””is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation””even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection…

Financial impotence goes by other names: financial fragility, financial insecurity, financial distress. But whatever you call it, the evidence strongly indicates that either a sizable minority or a slim majority of Americans are on thin ice financially. How thin? A 2014 Bankrate survey, echoing the Fed’s data, found that only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. Two reports published last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found, respectively, that 55 percent of households didn’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income, and that of the 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(LAT) Many US elderly are on the road, way past retirement and chasing jobs

[Dolores Westfall]…endures what is for many aging Americans an unforgiving economy. Nearly one-third of U.S. heads of households ages 55 and older have no pension or retirement savings and a median annual income of about $19,000.

A growing proportion of the nation’s elderly are like Westfall: too poor to retire and too young to die.

Many rely on Social Security and minimal pensions, in part because half of all workers have no employer-backed retirement plans. Eight in 10 Americans say they will work well into their 60s or skip retirement entirely.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(NY Times Op-ed) Rusty Reno– How Both Parties Lost the White Middle Class

What’s striking ”” and crucial for understanding our populist moment ”” is the fact that the leadership cadres of both parties aren’t just unresponsive to this anxiety. They add to it.

The intelligentsia on the left rarely lets a moment pass without reminding us of the demographic eclipse of white middle-class voters. Sometimes, those voters are described as racists, or derided as dull suburbanites who lack the élan of the new urban “creative class.” The message: White middle-class Americans aren’t just irrelevant to America’s future, they’re in the way.

Conservatives are no less harsh. Pundits ominously predict that the “innovators” are about to be overwhelmed by a locust blight of “takers.” The message: If it weren’t for successful people like us, middle-class people like you would be doomed. And if you’re not an entrepreneurial “producer,” you’re in the way.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(FT) US industrial heartland frets as Federal Reserve rate rise looms

If the Federal Reserve proceeds as expected and raises US interest rates for the first time in almost a decade on Wednesday it will be an affirmation of what Janet Yellen and her fellow policymakers see as the strength of the US recovery.

It will also be at odds with what many in the US’s industrial economy are seeing.

From manufacturing behemoths like Caterpillar and Deere & Co to companies supplying the industrial sector the common theme in recent months has been that, thanks to a strong dollar and a collapse in commodity prices, tough times are back. Some are going so far as to declare the arrival of an industrial recession.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

More Foreclosures, this time by Hedge Funds

Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.

As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.

But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms.

Read it all from the front page of today’s New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

(FT) Gideon Rachman–Europe’s dream is dying in Greece

The danger now is that, just as Greece was once a trailblazer in linking a democratic transition to the European project, so it may become an emblem of a new and dangerous process: the disintegration of the EU. The current crisis could easily lead to the country leaving the euro and eventually the union itself. That would undermine the fundamental EU proposition: that joining the European club is the best guarantee of future prosperity and stability.

Even if an angry and impoverished Greece ultimately remains inside the tent, the link between the EU and prosperity will have been ruptured. For the horrible truth is dawning that it is not just that the EU has failed to deliver on its promises of prosperity and unity. By locking Greece and other EU countries into a failed economic experiment ”” the euro ”” it is now actively destroying wealth, stability and European solidarity.

The dangers of that process are all the more pronounced because Greece is in a highly strategic location. To the south lies the chaos and bloodshed of Libya; to the north lies the instability of the Balkans; to the east, an angry and resurgent Russia.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(NYT) More Americans Are Renting, and Paying More, as Homeownership Falls

In the past, many families like the McDowells, whose household income is almost $100,000 a year, would already be nestled in a starter home, maybe even on the cusp of upgrading to something bigger and more expensive on the profits from their first house.

But even as the market continues to improve ”” sales of existing homes in May increased to their highest pace in six years, the National Association of Realtors reported on Monday, and first-timers make up 32 percent of the buyers ”” it is leaving millions of Americans unwillingly stuck in rental housing.

“It’s more of a new normal,” said Robert J. Shiller, an economics professor at Yale University and a Nobel laureate. “We went through a wrenching experience with the biggest housing bubble and the biggest collapse since 1890. This is an anxious time.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(W Post) Robert Samuelson–The tentative US economy

The U.S. economy continues to stumble. It’s creating jobs at a goodly clip, but other aspects of growth are less impressive. Business investment has been lackluster. The housing recovery is improving but remains short of where many economists thought it would be. Consumer spending, representing slightly more than two-thirds of total spending, has been soft. The economy has a tentative quality that repeatedly disappoints forecasts of stronger growth.

My main explanation for this ”” as I’ve argued before ”” is the hangover from the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the Great Recession. These events changed economic psychology, precisely because they were unanticipated and horrific. They transcended the experience of most Americans (that is, anyone who hadn’t lived through the Great Depression). Corporate executives and consumers alike became more defensive; they saved and hoarded a bit more. If a novel calamity struck once, it could strike again. They’d better prepare.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(W Post Wonkblog) U.S. economy shrinks in first quarter, raising questions about underlying strength

The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff.

The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment ”” all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit.

The numbers released Friday were a revision of earlier figures that had shown GDP growing in the first quarter at 0.2 percent. Markets had since expected the downward revision, in large part because of recent data showing the trade deficit at a 6½-year high.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Bloomberg) New Survey From the Fed Shows Exactly Why they are in No Rush to Raise

The Federal Reserve’s report on the economic well-being of U.S. households is out, and it contains one very interesting finding: A decent share of Americans want to work longer hours even without a raise.

The Fed asked non-self-employed workers whether they’d prefer to work more, less, or the same amount that they now work if their hourly wage was unchanged. The goal of the question was to help gauge the amount of underemployment in the economy, according to the report.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they’d prefer to work more hours at their current wage. Among those who work part time, the share is even higher at 49 percent. The results might help Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues connect the dots in a labor market that’s still flashing mixed signals.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

In 2012, 20-somethings had children at the slowest pace of any generation in US history

That the Great Recession of 2007-09 made Americans have fewer kids is no surprise, but a new study shows how big the toll was.

Birth rates for U.S. women in their 20s dropped more than 15% between 2007 and 2012, just before and after the recession, the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy research group, said in a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released Tuesday.

Among Hispanic 20-somethings, the birth rate dropped 26%. Non-Hispanic blacks? 14%. By contrast, non-Hispanic white 20-somethings saw an 11% decline.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sociology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology, Young Adults