Friday, January 02, 2009

77% of Americans blame the media for making the economic situation worse

It appears I'm not the only one who thinks the media is feeding the economic problems in this country; 77% of my fellow Americans feel this way according to a new poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation :

Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that the U.S. media is making the economic situation worse by projecting fear into people's minds [emphasis mine].

The majority of those surveyed feel that the financial press, by focusing on and embellishing negative news, is damaging consumer confidence and damping investment, making a difficult situation much worse. The poll was conducted via telephone, December 4 - 7.

The US survey of 1000 adults was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation and is statistically representative of the total U.S. population. The survey question: "Do you think the financial press is making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people's minds?" While the overall response indicated that 77% of Americans answered YES, here are highlights of note: Household Incomes: $25k - $35k -- 79% answered YES $35k - $50k -- 88% answered YES $50k - $75k -- 76% answered YES $75k - more -- 78% answered YES Demographics: 85% of young adults (18-24 yrs old) answered YES 77% of males and females alike answered YES 65% of blacks answered YES

I wonder what the economic situation would look like without the media hype?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Political intolerance at the New School

I was dismayed to read about a protest at my Alma mater, The New School for Social Research. It seems that Bob Kerrey, the president, is not sufficiently lefty enough for the school:

Mr. Kerrey has clashed with some professors since the day of his appointment as the New School’s president, with complaints that he lacks a Ph.D. and that his politics —particularly his early support for the Iraq war — were too moderate for the unabashedly liberal campus.

It seems that the intolerant students have joined their professors in protest-- but rather than settle things peacefully, they chase, taunt and throw things at a crippled man:
A little after 11:30 p.m., Mr. Kerrey emerged from a university building on Fifth Avenue south of 14th Street to a sea of a few hundred protesters chanting for his resignation. As Mr. Kerrey walked down Fifth Avenue toward 12th Street, about 30 protesters began following him, some of them shouting insults.

As the crowd’s pace quickened, so did Mr. Kerrey’s. Then, Mr. Kerrey, who lost a part of his leg in Vietnam and wears a prosthesis, broke into a run. The protesters gave chase. Mr. Kerrey turned left on a cross street and ducked into a brownstone.

At some point in the confrontation, a protester threw a tomato at Mr. Kerrey.

I must say that I was not impressed with the political tolerance at the time I went to graduate school there and now, I am less so. I hope these cowardly students rot in hell.

Here is video of the students insulting Kerrey--honestly, they look and sound more laughable and silly then anything else:


Are economic woes as much perception as reality?

On CNBC and other stations I have watched lately, the news is typically that the economy in 2009 will begin to improve. This, after months prior to the election of harping on the horrible economic situation. Now, most Americans under 70 apparently think that 2008 was the worst year they have ever seen economically.

Yet, whenever I talk to people, they always tell me that they, themselves are doing fine. I realize this is anecdotal but it left me wondering if at least a portion of the economic doom and gloom is caused by perception, not reality. For example, in a "Wealth survey" conducted by CNBC on why people were spending less at the holidays--many of the reasons struck me as perception as opposed to current reality. Here are the findings:

Very few consumers cite lack of access to credit as a reason for why they plan to spend less this holiday season:

Will spend less due to inflation: 26%

Will spend less to save more: 20%

Will spend less due all the talk about the economy: 19%

Will spend less due to uncertainty about the future: 17%

Will spend less due to loss / risk of loss of jobs: 16%

Will spend less due to having trouble paying current bills: 15%

Will spend less due to lack of access to credit: 1%

Okay, the inflation argument doesn't hold up too well currently-- lots of prices have fallen, not risen, such as gas and home prices. The Consumer Price Index fell in November by 1.7% so that would mean that deflation may be the problem, not inflation. Yes, prices were up in the summer but they seem to have come down and deflation is the issue for the moment. In addition, a full 19% of people are spending less due to talk about the economy, no doubt coming from the media and 17% are spending less due to uncertainty about the future, again driven most likely by the negative media talk prior to, and after the election.

Note that only 15% are spending less because they are having trouble paying bills and only 1% due to lack of credit so the credit crisis doesn't seem to have much to do with it--despite all the talk about it.

Has the media produced a self-fulfilling prophecy by going so negative? I think that partly, yes. I see news shows now trying to talk up the turnaround in 2009 (maybe because the election is over?) but they have scared people to the point that they don't want to spend, even if things are looking up. Will this change? Maybe, but sometimes, fear and panic can cause the very situation the government is now trying to prevent. I hope people figure this out.


Happy New Year! I had a great 2008 and am hoping 2009 is even better. Despite all the panic in the media, it's important to remember how much we actually do have.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't "leave it to the other guy"

Glenn Sacks emailed to let me know about a lawsuit being filed by Fathers and Families, to stop new Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines:

Fathers and Families has filed suit in Federal District Court in Boston to stop the scheduled January 1 implementation of new Child Support Guidelines. The suit seeks a temporary injunction halting the use of the new guidelines until a full hearing can be held. It will be heard before Judge D.P. Woodlock on Monday, January 5 at 10 AM in courtroom 1.....

The new guidelines will cause almost all child support orders to increase substantially — when all factors are considered, middle-class recipients will enjoy a standard of living almost double that of payers who earn about the same amount. In some cases, child support orders will triple, even in cases in which the payer is poor and the child is economically comfortable because the custodial parent earns over $100,000. And in high income cases, the child support order for one child could be nearly $50,000.

Massachusetts is already an expensive place to live; if these new guidelines are passed, it will be harder, mainly for the divorced men in that state. Go take a look here and see what you can do to help. As Dr. Ned Holstein, the executive director of Fathers and Families says, "If you 'leave it to the other guy,' it won’t happen."


New Year's resolutions made easy

Why try too hard on your New Year's resolutions when you can take the easy way out? David Harsanyi on his New Year's resolution:

Meanwhile, I'll be making only one, completely horrifying resolution this year. Not only do I plan to regularly eat cheap, salt-infested, cheese- drenched meat products, but I also plan on washing them down with various brands of needlessly sugary beverages.

That sounds good, and in my own contrarian way, I understand. However, I rarely do New Year's resolutions. If I have a goal, I break it down into small doable segments and work on one of them every once in a while until I finish what I want to accomplish. This year, I do think my resolution will be to do something about this damn Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) that I got from computer overuse. Darn you people on the Internet, you are so interesting, I keep clicking on to see what you say. I need to stop but it has gotten to be a habit and I am paying for it with a left arm that I can barely lift over my head. So my goal? Physical therapy in 2009. Good times.

What about you, do you have a resolution? If so, what is it it and how will or won't you achieve it?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is the health care gravy train on the way?

I was reading a comment by Steve Forbes in Forbes magazine today about health care and just had a few thoughts. If you have read this blog regularly, you will know that I am typically against universal health care. As is to be expected, Forbes says in a comment entitled, Sickening, that the Obama administration will make a hard-left push in health care, probably by signing a series of bills rather than trying to nationalize all at once.

He states that the Democrats will push a big reform bill that ostensibly deals with the 47 million uninsured Americans and that contains the following features:

Everyone must have health insurance, in the same way that most states mandate that all drivers have car insurance.

Private companies can write policies for people in this government pool, but they will have to meet numerous government mandates on what their policies must provide, as well as restrictions on what they can charge for premiums. In fact, the Obama Administration may mandate so-called community rating, in which everyone, regardless of age or condition, pays the same price for insurance. To mollify private insurers the feds will offer reinsurance above certain levels of liability.

At first, I balked at this plan (and it is not certain, of course, that this is the direction the Obama administration will take), but then I thought about it. Guess who pays for this mandated health care? Younger and/or healthier people.

That ain't me. The plan won't work unless the young and healthy subsidize those of us who have health problems and are older. With a heart attack, an ICD and in my forties, I'm going to be sitting pretty. I am already in the system. And now the younger, healthier people will be forced to contribute to pay for my battery changes, heart check-ups and other medical problems. Sounds good to me.

And it's not like the young liberal types are opposed to the idea of expanded health care. After all, those who are young activists are on Facebook and other sites clamoring for forced government health care. In addition, 68% of 18-24 year-olds voted for Obama as did 69% of the 25-29 year-olds (sorry to the 31-32% who did not--I sure don't want you subsidizing me). What these liberals don't realize is, they will most likely be the ones paying my way--but oh, well. As the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it."


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Anti-Americanism is always the storyline in Hollywood

It seems that Hollywood has some new hot subject matter now with the current economic downturn:

Hollywood has found its new hot subject matter: the global economic meltdown.

Until recently, the slump had only been bad news for the movie industry as financial backers pulled out of what are often high-risk ventures. But the studios have now had time to develop proposals for pictures about the financial chaos, inspiring a clutch of big-budget films over the next year.

Naturally the films will be anti-American and how we got in this mess because of--you guessed it--the American corporate "empire" supported by the Republican government.

If we are still having economic bad times (which I doubt, because Obama will be in) next year with Obama as president, I wonder how Hollywood will explain that? I am just hoping that so many of the studios are out of business, we won't have to find out.

Should a bachelor's degree be a job qualification?

Charles Murray, author of Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality and The Bell Curve
wrote an op-ed in the New York Times today entitled, "Should the Obama Generation Drop Out?" (via Newsalert). Of college, that is:

BARACK OBAMA has two attractive ideas for improving post-secondary education — expanding the use of community colleges and tuition tax credits — but he needs to hitch them to a broader platform. As president, Mr. Obama should use his bully pulpit to undermine the bachelor’s degree as a job qualification. Here’s a suggested battle cry, to be repeated in every speech on the subject: “It’s what you can do that should count when you apply for a job, not where you learned to do it.”

Murray sees the college degree as out of reach or a waste of time for some:

For most of the nation’s youths, making the bachelor’s degree a job qualification means demanding a credential that is beyond their reach. It is a truth that politicians and educators cannot bring themselves to say out loud: A large majority of young people do not have the intellectual ability to do genuine college-level work.

What do you think, should college be a prerequisite for the job market? I don't think so, but many people do.