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February 27th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Weekends different because of the economy?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Signs that people have less disposable income these days are everywhere.

Weekends different because of the economy?

Restaurants are hurting as more Americans decide to stay in more.

Take for example the earnings at large retailers like Target - where profits were down 41 percent in 4th quarter of last year. Or Macy's - which fared even worse, with profits down almost 59 percent during that same time.

Some of the changes are more subtle but just as revealing. Wal-Mart says sales of starter sewing kits have shot up by 30 percent. Landscaping companies have seen their revenue drop 7 percent in the last year. And Procter and Gamble says more people are asking how to dye their hair at home - instead of spending more and going to the beauty salon.

In addition – a lot of people are anxious about the possibility of losing their home to foreclosure, and more than a million people already have. Ask anyone and they will likely tell you they are at least a little bit uncertain about their job. Will it continue? Will they be laid off? Will they be asked to take a pay cut or work a reduced schedule or will they just be fired outright?

The reasons for squeezing a nickel until the buffalo's eyes bug out are everywhere. (That's a variation on an old expression that can't be used on a family news program.) If people have a couple of extra bucks, they're probably inclined to hang onto it.

So as Friday rolls around and thoughts turn to the weekend...

Here’s my question to you: In light of the economy, what's different about how you spend your weekends?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Economy
February 27th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

U.S. losing war in Afghanistan?

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Soldiers with a joint U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force Provincial Reconstruction Team keep cover in Afghanistan's Shemgal Valley. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan - so says Senator John McCain.

"When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning," said McCain.

The former presidential candidate says although he approves of President Obama's plan to send 17,000 more troops there. He thinks additional allied and Afghan troops will be needed to bat back a resurgent al Qaeda and Taliban. He's calling for the U.S. to set up a larger military headquarters and to boost nonmilitary assistance.

The Arizona Senator says that the situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as bad as it was in Iraq - but that insurgent attacks were up sharply last year and violence increased more than 500 percent in the last 4 years.

McCain's comments come after those of Defense Secretary Robert Gates - who has said the U.S. faces "a very tough test" in Afghanistan, although Gates is confident we will "rise to the occasion."

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows most Americans agree with McCain... only 31% say the U.S. is currently winning the war in Afghanistan, although 62% say the U.S. can eventually win it.

Meanwhile - when it comes to the other war, the one in Iraq, McCain is among several Republicans backing President Obama's plan to pull most U.S. troops out by August 2010. McCain says the plan is a "reasonable" one and he's "cautiously optimistic" that it can lead to success.

Here’s my question to you: Is John McCain right that the U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Afghanistan • US Military
February 27th, 2009
12:41 PM ET

Should Pres. Obama be more positive about the economy?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama is a preacher of doom and gloom when it comes to the economy, according to Dick Morris. He writes the president is making the crisis worse. "Instead of being a firewall, reassuring Main Street even as Wall Street crashed, he has become a conduit of panic, spreading the mood of desperation from the stock exchange floor to kitchen tables across the world," said Morris.

Should Pres. Obama be more positive about the economy?

Dick Morris says the president has become a "conduit of panic."

Morris describes Mr. Obama as a "global Paul Revere" and says every time he speaks, he sends markets down and stocks crashing, and that the president doesn't seem to get the fact that the rest of the world takes its cues from him.

Dick Morris thinks the president is talking this way in order to keep people in a state of panic so he can pass through his agenda - from spending bills to tax increases to government regulations. He believes the longer the economy continues to deteriorate – the more difficult it will be to pass the blame off on President Bush.

Turns out a wide range of people have called for Mr. Obama to be more positive when speaking about the economy - including former President Bill Clinton , who suggested the president sound a more hopeful note. Others suggest that after years of President Bush painting an unrealistic, rosy scenario, Pres. Obama needs to tell it like it is, as he has been doing.

In his address to Congress this week - the president sounded more upbeat when he said we are not quitters - and that the U.S. will rebuild, recover and emerge stronger than before.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to the economy, should President Obama's message be more positive?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama • US Economy
February 26th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Did Gov. Jindal help or hurt himself with Republican response?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Republicans trotted out one of their hopefuls for 2012 this week and he pretty much landed with a loud thud. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal got lousy reviews from across the political spectrum after giving the Republican response to President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night.

Did Gov. Jindal help or hurt himself with Republican response?

Some Republicans say Jindal came off at best off-balance and at worst downright amateur in his national debut.

The criticism even came from conservatives who have been promoting the 36-year-old rising political star as the person to revive the GOP. Some Republicans say Jindal came off at best off-balance and at worst downright amateur in his national debut. They're calling for the person who wrote Jindal's "cheesy" response and coached him to be fired and say Jindal shouldn't be allowed near a teleprompter again. Others point out that Republicans are looking for a "conservative version" of President Obama. Jindal ain't it.

Although some Republicans actually praised the content of his speech, others were left fuming at Jindal's swipe at government spending to monitor volcanoes. The mayor of Vancouver, Washington - which is in the shadow of Mount St. Helens - asks if Jindal has a volcano in his backyard. He points out that Mt. St. Helens is still very active and potentially dangerous.

In all fairness to Jindal, the opposition party's response rarely wins praise and politicians often come back from moments like these. But if Governors Bobby Jindal and Governor Sarah Palin are the great hope for Republicans in 2012, they might want to go back to the drawing board. And my guess is Mitt Romney is sleeping very well these nights.

Here’s my question to you: Did Gov. Bobby Jindal help or hurt himself with his Republican response to Pres. Obama's address this week?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Republicans
February 26th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Financial crisis bigger national security threat than terrorism?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Worldwide economic jitters are ranking high on the CIA's list of priorities.

Financial crisis bigger national security threat than terrorism?

Migrant workers in China demolish walls to get usable brick. East Asia is among the regions that are in crisis because of the economy.

The spy agency has started briefing the White House daily about the global financial crisis, and its ripple effects on the stability of various countries.

The CIA is now giving an "Economic Intelligence Briefing" to top officials, in addition to the daily roundup of terrorist attacks and surveillance reports. This suggests the global economic crisis is a top concern when it comes to our national security.

CIA director Leon Panetta says the White House requested the daily economic briefing. He talked about the impact of the recession throughout the world and said now U.S. officials won't be surprised by the aftershocks from bank failures and rising unemployment elsewhere. The agency is focusing on many areas – including East Asia and Latin America – that are in crisis because of the economy.

Dennis Blair, the new Director of National Intelligence, said earlier this month that economic issues have pretty much replaced terrorism as the country's top security challenge. He pointed out that three European governments have fallen because of economic issues.

The economic crunch overseas now joins a long list of global concerns confronting President Obama... including the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, winding down the war in Iraq, and the never-ending conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Here’s my question to you: Which is a bigger threat to America's national security: the global financial crisis or terrorism?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Economy
February 26th, 2009
01:08 PM ET

Earmarks a necessary evil?

Earmarks a necessary evil?

The $410 billion spending bill is filled with pork, including $1.8 million to research "swine odor and manure management." (PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The House of Representatives has passed a $410 billion spending bill - and it's been stuffed with pork by both parties.

The New York Times reports one watchdog group says the bill includes almost $8 billion for more than 85,000 pet projects. Among them:

– $1.7 million for a honey bee laboratory in Texas

– $1.5 million for work on grapes and grape products - including wine

– $1.8 million to research "swine odor and manure management" in Iowa...they could do the same research in Washington D.C.

-smaller ticket items include asparagus research in Washington State, wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming, rodent control in Hawaii... and on and on.

Democrats also earmarked about $40 million for the presidential libraries of Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The bill even includes earmarks requested by some lawmakers who are no longer in Congress.

Republicans pounced on the bill as wasteful, pointing out it comes just after the White House held that summit on fiscal responsibility. But Democrats say that 40% of the earmark spending went to projects requested by Republicans.

Democratic Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin defended earmarks, saying they were fully disclosed and a small part of the bill. He added that without them, "the White House and its anonymous bureaucrats" would control all spending.

House and Senate Democrats have already agreed on the bill - although Republican Senators could try to cut out some of the pork.

As for the White House, one official says "it's a big document. we are still reviewing it."

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Congress
February 25th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Nation's most and least important priorities?

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What are the nation's priorities? (PHOTO CREDIT: CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In his address to Congress last night, President Obama laid out what would be an ambitious agenda even in good times - never mind that we're in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Yet the president struck an optimistic tone, saying, "We will rebuild and we will recover." His speech focused on 3 top priorities - energy, health care and education. But there was also much more, including, but not limited to: tax reform, beginning a debate on overhauling Social Security, retooling the auto industry, reforming the regulatory system, getting rid of fraud and waste in Medicare, seeking a cure for cancer "in our time", expanding mass transit, encouraging parental responsibility, and on and on. Plus, don't forget there's still a war on terror and two real wars going on.

But our President seems remarkably unruffled by all of this, serene in an inner confidence that he has what it takes to lead this country back into the sunlight. That's not to say some of this stuff may need to be delayed. Mr. Obama acknowledged as much, saying, "Everyone in this chamber... will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me. But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges."

Here’s my question to you: What are the most important priorities for the nation at this time, and which can wait?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Economy
February 25th, 2009
05:01 PM ET

Bank that got bailout $ throws lavish parties?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A bank that got $1.6 billion dollars in government bailout money sponsored a series of "lavish parties" during a golf tournament in Los Angeles last weekend.

Bank that got bailout $ throws lavish parties?

Northern Trust Bank sponsored a series of “lavish parties” in Los Angeles last weekend.

Chicago-based Northern Trust bank spent millions of dollars sponsoring the tournament and associated client events. The website TMZ reports that this included dinners, concerts by Sheryl Crow and Earth,Wind and Fire, a private party at the House of Blues and gift bags from Tiffany. Also, hundreds of people were flown in and put up in luxury hotels.

A Northern Trust official confirms to CNN that the bank sponsored the events, but not on the taxpayers' dime. He said the bank is healthy and didn't ask for TARP money, but entered the program at the request of the government. He added that their "normal cash flow" - and not TARP funds - paid for the event.

But the bank's explanation may not be enough for some. Congressman Barney Frank is writing a letter to Northern Trust calling on it to pay back the money it spent on these events. Frank says this behavior demonstrates "extraordinary levels of irresponsibility and arrogance." And in the Senate, John Kerry says he'll introduce a bill this week to end what he calls the "extravagant spending practices" of banks getting taxpayer money. Under his legislation – banks wouldn't be able to host, sponsor or pay for conferences, or holiday or entertainment events in the year they get government funds.

In December – Northern Trust announced plans to cut 450 jobs this year.

Here’s my question to you: What message does it send when a bank that got $1.6 billion in bailout money throws lavish dinners, parties, and concerts?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Bailout
February 25th, 2009
01:16 PM ET

GOP in position to talk fiscal responsibility?

GOP in position to talk fiscal responsibility?

The National Debt Clock in New York City. President Bush increased the national debt more than all previous presidents combined. (PHOTO CREDIT: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In the Republican response to President Obama's speech last night, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called the stimulus package "irresponsible". He said it will grow government, increase taxes in the future and saddle future generations with debt.

"Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did," said Jindal.

Interesting, after the last 8 years, it would seem that Republicans are hardly in a position to lecture anyone about fiscal responsibility. When President Bush took office in 2000, the national debt was about $5.7 trillion dollars, which after two wars and lots of other spending, is now approaching $11 trillion. President Bush ran up more debt for this country than all previous presidents combined.

Jindal acknowledged last night that in recent years, "our party got away from its principles." No kidding.

Keep in mind, Jindal - who some see as a possible contender for his party's presidential nominee in 2012 - is one of the Republican governors talking about rejecting stimulus funding for his state. Jindal says he plans to turn down $100 million because it would require his state to change its unemployment laws. I guess when you're a wealthy state like Louisiana you don't need no stinking stimulus money.

Here’s my question to you: Are the Republicans in any position to lecture President Obama on fiscal responsibility?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Republicans
February 24th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

How has economic crisis changed your daily life?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As President Obama gets ready to address a joint session of congress tonight - he'll also be talking to a nation that's pretty uncomfortable about where we're headed.

How has economic crisis changed your daily life?

Piggy banks and money boxes are gaining popularity as people are starting to save their money at home.

A new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 71% of Americans are angry about where we're headed. And 73% are scared. These are not encouraging numbers. Also – 79% of those surveyed think things in the U.S. are going badly.

The silver lining is that most people are still upbeat about their own personal situation - with 77% saying things are going well for them.

Nevertheless, we're being warned that these rough economic times are far from over. Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke says he hopes the recession will end later this year - but a full economic recovery could take two or three more years.

And many Americans are reshaping their lifestyles to adjust to these shaky circumstances. They're downsizing and actually trying to live within their means – instead of the culture of credit that was the rule of the land for too many years. Many are saving more. Others are trying to figure out how to get by on one less salary while trying to pay rising bills for things like health care and education. All the while sitting on a home that's lost much of its value.

Here’s my question to you: How has your daily life changed because of the economic crisis?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Economy
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