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May 31st, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Home ownership levels are on the decline. What does that say about the American dream?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

More than two-thirds of Americans say they have achieved the American Dream or will do so at some point in their lifetime according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project. But a new report out today says one crucial part of the American dream is no longer a reality for many Americans: Owning a home.

The rate of home ownership in this country is now back to the level it was in 1998. Forget the housing boom-it's like it never happened. And some economists and industry experts say the home ownership rate could drop even further to the levels of the 1980s or earlier.

Last year, 66.4% of Americans owned a home, down from a peak of about 69% in 2004. Housing prices fell in March to their lowest level since the so-called Great Recession began. This is all according to the Standard and Poor's Case Shiller Home Price Index, considered one of the best indicators of the housing situation in the country.

According to a survey from real estate websites Trulia and RealtyTrac, 54% of Americans said they thought the real estate market would recover in 2014 or later. That's up from about one-third who gave the same answer when the same poll was given last November.

The outlook is pretty bleak. Unemployment and bad credit are preventing many Americans from buying a home. Others are struggling to hold on to what they already own, either underwater in their homes– meaning the home is worth less than their mortgage - or facing foreclosure. And then there are those who have the money to buy a home but are choosing not to...often out of fear the worst is still to come.

Here’s my question to you: Home ownership levels are on the decline. What does that say about the American dream?


Filed under: Homeownership
May 31st, 2011
05:00 PM ET

When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, how much is enough?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ferguson/U.S. via Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's coming up on 10 years since we went to war in Afghanistan. The stated purpose at the time was to get Osama bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda who had attacked us on 9/11. Bin Laden is dead now, and we're still fighting and dying in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll recently passed 1,500.

In a speech in December 2009, President Obama announced he would begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July 2011. Well, a year and a half has passed, July is almost here, and Americans are waiting to hear his plan.

And pressure is mounting from some unlikely places. House Democrats are becoming more vocal on Afghanistan, pushing for an accelerated withdrawal plan and, according to Politico.com, asking the president to go after a settlement with "all interested parties" to speed up the process. That includes the Taliban.

Only 37% of military members approve of the job President Obama is doing compared to a 48% job approval from Americans who have not served in the military.

We're still in Iraq. We were told we would be in Libya for a matter of a few days; that was more than two months ago.

Afghanistan has never been conquered. Russia gave up after seven years. And everyone else who has ever tried has eventually been forced to leave with their tails between their legs. The Karzai government is a joke, ineffective and corrupt. The schools in Afghanistan openly teach young children how to hate the United States. The population can't read, but they're taught how to hate our guts.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, how much is enough?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Afghanistan
May 26th, 2011
04:41 PM ET

Pres. Obama breaking the law with U.S. role in Libya?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Several members of the House of Representatives are accusing President Barack Obama of violating the war powers act by continuing to allow U.S. participation in allied attacks on Libya. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, accused the president of playing "king." While Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, said this whole ordeal is "shredding the U.S. Constitution."

Friday marked the 60th day since the president told Congress the U.S. was joining allied forces in the attacks against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Told Congress, as opposed to asking for approval. The 60-day mark is significant because under the War Powers Resolution, congressional authorization is required in significant military activity by then or the operation must be stopped. Neither has happened.

Instead, as the deadline approached, the president sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for a resolution of support. Obama did not mention the War Powers Resolution or ask explicitly for authorization in his letter.

He may get that resolution of support from the Senate. Sens. John Kerry and John McCain have introduced a bipartisan resolution that expresses Congress' support for U.S. military involvement in Libya. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the vote would not happen before the week-long Memorial Day recess.

And over in the House, it's a much different story. Neither party has any plans to bring a resolution of support to the floor.

The War Powers Resolution dates back to 1973 and came out of the Vietnam War. It was passed as an effort to restore the role of Congress in deciding whether the U.S. military becomes involved in significant conflicts. President Richard Nixon at the time vetoed the act. Congress overrode it.

And it has pretty much been ignored by presidents ever since.

Here’s my question to you: Is President Obama breaking the law with the United States’ role in Libya?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Libya • President Barack Obama
May 26th, 2011
04:40 PM ET

As Memorial Day approaches, how do you feel about your country?

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An Army colonel places a flag at the foot of a military member's gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery. Placing of flags is part of the traditions celebrated for the Memorial Day national holiday. (PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, I got to wondering what those who gave their life for this country would think if they could see us now.

We don't remember those folks like we probably should. There will be parades here and there… but many of us will head for the malls, the beaches, and the barbecues. Little more than a passing thought will be given to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue to do those things.

As we head into another summer, the nation is broke and fighting three wars.

The federal government is broken, maybe beyond repair.

We passed the debt ceiling and nothing has been done. When we approach default in August, will anything be done then?

Another election campaign is starting. More empty promises and mud slinging designed to suck us in one more time to the belief that this time, somehow, it's going to be better.

It isn't and it probably won't be, but when you look around, it's still the last, best chance on earth.

At least for awhile longer.

Here’s my question to you: As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, how do you feel about your country?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
May 25th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

What does it mean that 25 percent of retirees in the U.S. say their savings are all gone?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If you think talk on Capitol Hill over reducing our deficit and raising the debt ceiling has been ugly - just wait until the focus shifts to making cuts to Medicare or raising the retirement age for Social Security.

Long-term deficit reduction can't be achieved without reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and the politicians know that. But millions of Americans depend on these programs and, as the Baby Boomer population ages, tens of millions more will, too.

A new survey out from the AARP finds many Americans in retirement or close to retirement age won't ever recover financially from the so-called Great Recession. Record job losses, declining home prices, skyrocketing health care costs and investment portfolios rocked by stock market volatility have all played a role.

One in four Americans over the age of 50 says they have burned through all of their savings. More than half, or about 53 percent, say they are not confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

And about half of those surveyed who are having problems taking care of their finances say they have delayed getting medical or dental care or even stopped taking medications because they simply can't afford to.

Of those surveyed who started to collect Social Security retirement benefits, more than two-thirds say they did so earlier than previously planned.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean that 25 percent of retirees in the U.S. say their savings are all gone?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Longevity • United States
May 25th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

With the GOP field so weak, should Sarah Palin run for president?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Just when we thought maybe she had decided to just go away comes news of Sarah Palin, the movie. Next month, a secretly produced, two-hour feature film about the former Alaska governor will be released in Iowa, where the 2012 presidential campaign will kick off with the Iowa caucuses in February.

The $1 million dollar project was produced by conservative filmmaker Stephen Bannon. He agreed to make the film after Palin and her staff asked him in November to produce a series of videos that would highlight her accomplishments as governor and re-establish her as a GOP maverick. Probably a short movie. After its initial release in Iowa, the film will open in New Hampshire, home to the first official primary. She'd better hope it's a blockbuster. According to the latest poll of New Hampshire primary voters, Mitt Romney outpolls Palin by a margin of more than 6 to 1 or about 33% to 5%.

If you're looking for something besides Palin propaganda, there are two new books to read.

"Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years," by ex-Palin aide Frank Bailey, is based on e-mails he kept while working for Palin during her run for governor in 2006 through her failed bid for vice president in 2008. He says Palin loved to play the victim and he calls her leadership style "chaotic.”

I would also recommend "The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power" by investigative reporter Geoffrey Dunn. This book, which I have read, chronicles a lifelong pathology of deceit and makes the claim that she's lied about almost everything her entire life.

There's also some juicy personal stuff in there.

The book is well researched and should be required reading for anyone considering supporting a presidential run by this woman.

Here’s my question to you: With the GOP field so weak, should Sarah Palin run for president?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: GOP • Sarah Palin
May 24th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should Calif. be forced to release tens of thousands of prisoners?

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Inmates at Chino State Prison, which houses 5500 inmates, crowd around double and triple bunk beds in a gymnasium modified to house surplus prisoners. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As if the cash-strapped state of California doesn't have enough problems to deal with, it now has to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of convicts who need to be moved out of the state prison system to comply with a new Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Monday that overcrowding is such a problem in California's prisons that the prisoners' eighth amendment rights - the ones that protect against cruel and unusual punishment - are being violated.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court ordered the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

The state will have two years to comply with the high court's order. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted in favor of reducing the overcrowding along with the court's 4 consistently liberal justices, stressed that the state had options other than just releasing the inmates onto the streets - like constructing of new facilities or transferring of prisoners out of state or to country facilities.

But that all costs money... and California is flat broke.

The secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said today it hopes to comply with the court's ruling without releasing any prisoners.

That would be nice.

The state is looking into plans to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities.

We're not talking about finding spots for 50 inmates throughout the state. We're talking about tens of thousands.

Here’s my question to you: The Supreme Court has ordered California to release tens of thousands of prison inmates. Is that a good idea?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: prisons • Supreme Court
May 24th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

What message is sent to the people of the Joplin, Missouri, by the president’s trip to Europe?

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President Barack Obama enjoys a glass of Guinness in his ancestral home of Moneygall alongside First Lady Michelle Obama. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Just a thought. And I know these trips are planned way in advance. But what message is conveyed by pictures of President Obama downing a pint of Guinness and laughing it up with the Irish people while the people of Joplin, Missouri, search through the wreckage of their lives for dead family members?

It's estimated 80 million people could be affected by the continuing threat of severe weather. It could impact cities like Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Wichita, Kansas… and yes, Joplin could get hit again. We have already experienced the worst tornado outbreak in the last 50 years.

Meanwhile we have airlifted the first family and the gang that travels with them to Europe for six days of hobnobbing with various heads of state, eating the finest foods and drinking the best wines while Mother Nature wreaks havoc on innocent people in America's heartland.

Remember Katrina and the pathetic response of the Bush administration to the utter destruction of the city of New Orleans? In the back of my mind, I can't help but think that voters remembered Katrina well when they stepped into the booth in 2008 and elected America's first African-American president.

Here’s my question to you: What message is sent to the people of the Joplin, Missouri, by the president’s trip to Europe?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama
May 23rd, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Does the next generation have a shot at the American Dream?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

We've got huge problems with money and debt in this country right now.

Unemployment is still relatively high with good paying jobs continuing to be scarce.

The housing market is still terrible. Home values are down on the year and a record number of properties are in foreclosure.

Banks now own 872,000 homes, according to the New York Times. That’s twice as many as in 2007. And they are in the process of foreclosing on about a million more. Scary stuff.

But despite all of this, most Americans believe the American Dream is alive and well, according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they have achieved or will achieve the American Dream.

But the poll also found that less than one-third of Americans think their personal finances are excellent or good.

That number has dropped steadily since the start of the recession and it doesn't bode well for their kids and their kids' kids.

When asked if they thought their children will have a higher standard of living than they currently enjoy, fewer than half of Americans - only 47 percent - said yes.

Just two years ago, 62 percent said their kids will be better off than they are.

And these kids probably don't know what's in store for them.

In a separate poll of kids aged 12 to 17 conducted by Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation, only 7 percent think they will be worse off financially than their parents.... 89 percent think they will be the same or better off.

The eternal optimism of youth.

Here’s my question to you: Does the next generation have a shot at the American Dream?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
May 23rd, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Is Pres. Obama making U.S. relations with Israel worse?

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Pres. Obama speaks in Dublin on the first stop of a week-long European tour. (PHOTO CREDIT: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama was in Ireland today, the first leg of a six-day trip to Europe. And as he travels to Britain, France and Poland, U.S. tensions with Israel and the overall instability of the Middle East will likely be a theme.

The president's still trying to navigate around comments he made in a speech last Thursday, suggesting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian people should begin with the borders established before the 1967 war, in which Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians claim some of that land is theirs. President Obama’s suggestion angered the Israelis and created an uncomfortable meeting between President Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday at the White House. Sticking with the pre-1967 borders has been a long-held, but not often-stated, U.S. position.

Yesterday, the president spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, in an effort at damage control. He reiterated that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should begin with the pre-1967 borders, but only as a starting point. Land swaps could eventually be part of the plan in order to be fair to both sides. Netanyahu is addressing the same group tonight.

President Obama has said he's trying to jump-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians to slow the growing momentum for a declaration of a Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September. The president hopes to persuade his European counterparts to vote against it. But tensions between the two long-time allies remain high, and the rhetoric coming from Israel has gotten much sharper.

Here’s my question to you: Is President Obama making U.S. relations with Israel worse?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Israel • President Barack Obama
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