Seeing Through the Fog of Funny Money Policymaking

 

OK, let’s go through this one more time. Despite what we keep hearing from the politicians and moneymen, things are not getting better. Yes, we have seen the economic equivalent of a dead cat bounce — how could we not, given the trillions that have been thrown at the system — but it is simply not sustainable.

The reality is that we’ve just careened through decades of overborrowing and malinvestment, which created an array of dangerous imbalances and undermined our nation’s economic foundations. Now that the party is over, the wreckage is going to weigh on our prospects for years, if not decades.

Unfortunately, those who live in a bubble (i.e., Washington) or who’ve come to depend on them (e.g., Wall Street) have not seen through the fog of funny money policymaking. But as Bloomberg reports in „Americans Grow More Pessimistic on Economy, Nation’s Direction,” the average Joe (and Jane) seem to have their eyes wide open when it comes to today’s depressing reality.

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Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery.

Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

Those concerns have put consumers in a miserly mood as they head to the mall for holiday shopping, with half the country planning to spend less on gifts than last year and few buyers willing to run up credit-card debt for Christmas.

“The recession may be over, but the administration seems to be losing the battle when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of Americans,” says Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York. “This is important because the spending of consumers is the main factor that will turn the economic recovery into a self- sustaining one.”

Obama yesterday addressed anxiety over the economy with a speech proposing new spending on the nation’s transportation system, tax credits to spur hiring by small businesses and incentives to make homes more energy efficient.

Unemployment in November stood at 10 percent, a drop from 10.2 percent in October yet still the second month in a row the figure stood in double digits.

No. 1 Concern

The economy is the country’s top concern, with persistently high unemployment the greatest threat the public sees. Eight of 10 Americans rate joblessness a high risk to the economy in the next two years, outranking the federal budget deficit, which is cited by 7 of 10. An increase in taxes is named as a high risk by almost 6 of 10.

Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months. They are pessimistic that the government will succeed in reducing unemployment or lowering the budget deficit.

A year into Obama’s presidency, only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September.

The mood among members of Obama’s own Democratic Party has shifted most dramatically: While Democrats remain the most positive, the proportion saying the country is on the right track dropped to 58 percent from 71 percent in September. Among independents, 26 percent say the country is on the right track, down from 29 percent in September.

The poll of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 3-7 by Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The poll includes 714 likely voters in the 2010 general election, the margin of error for questions based on likely voters is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Click here to read the rest of the report and see related material, including a video and information about the methodology and exact wording of the poll questions.

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