FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
The Republican Party resembles a circular firing squad.
Republicans may manage to lose an election they could win - against a weakened incumbent in a troubled economy - which is why many in the party are dissatisfied with the state of the GOP race for president and the remaining candidates.
There's Mitt Romney, who's been running for six years, has all the money in the world and still can't get the party to line up behind him. Newt Gingrich seems to have done himself in after a couple of spikes of momentum. Ron Paul has rabid supporters, just not enough of them to make a difference.
And of course, Rick Santorum, the current flavor of the month - who has a history of controversial comments, including about Satan, and lost his own U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania by double digits.
It's no wonder that some Republicans are still looking for a savior.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the top choice of Republicans if there winds up being a "brokered convention." Christie - who gets 32% support - is followed by former Govs. Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush at 20% and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels at 15%.
One of the reasons that a lot of people like Christie is because he's such a straight talker. Most recently, he told Warren Buffett to "just write a check and shut up." Gotta love it.
Christie is a Romney supporter who insists he's not interested in running himself. Too bad. You could put the Christie-Obama debates on pay-per-view and retire the national debt.
Other Republicans who might still jump into the race include Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Here’s my question to you: Where is America headed if nearly half of us pay no federal income tax?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Nearly half of Americans live in a household that receives government assistance.
This stunning finding comes from a new report from a George Mason University-based research center.
More than one-in-three Americans lived in a household getting Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based government assistance in 2010.
When you add in those getting Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits, it represents almost half of the country.
More than 148,000,000 Americans.
The federal government sent a record total of $2 trillion to individuals in 2010. The stunning part is that's up 75% from a decade ago.
There's another new study from the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation that shows the public's dependence on the federal government shot up 23% in just two-years under President Obama.
This comes at a time when fewer Americans - less than half of us - pay income taxes.
Some say the rise in dependence under President Obama is due to the recession and high unemployment. But others say extending unemployment benefits indefinitely actually keeps unemployment rates higher because it creates an incentive not to work.
Meanwhile the country's safety net has become a hot topic in the presidential race.
Mitt Romney is under fire for saying he's not concerned about the very poor because they have an "ample" safety net. It's a comment I bet he wishes he could take back.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when half of Americans live in a household that gets government assistance?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm 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.
Billionaire investor George Soros warns a class war, including riots in the streets, is coming to the United States.
Soros tells Newsweek the Occupy Wall Street movement will grow and turn violent. He says the response to the unrest could become an "excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order."
If things go far enough, Soros suggests it could bring about a repressive political system.
This may be a stark view of where the United States is headed, but the idea of class conflict is growing these days.
When President Obama pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy as part of his plan to cut the deficit last fall, he insisted the tax hikes were not "class warfare." But not everyone agrees.
And you can bet that same income inequality will be a theme in President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night. The president is set to talk about a government that should ensure "a fair shake for all."
Obama has said the system is rigged against the nation's middle class and that he wants to work toward an America where "everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share."
And there's no doubt Americans are feeling this clash between the rich and the poor:
A recent poll shows a large majority of Americans see class warfare, with two-thirds saying they think there are "very strong" or "strong" class conflicts.
But this is the scary part. The clash between rich and poor now ranks as the country's greatest social conflict, topping conflicts between immigrants and native-born Americans or conflicts between blacks and whites.
Here’s my question to you: How concerned are you about class warfare in this country?
It used to matter.
The president's State of the Union address used to be a sort of snapshot of where the country stood: How the economy was doing, what was working, and what wasn't.
Now it's just a political speech - a nicely bundled batch of b.s. designed to make the American people feel good about whichever party is peddling it.
And in an election year it will be even worse than usual.
Nevertheless it's an exercise the president has to go through once a year and tomorrow night is the night.
With a captive audience of a joint session of Congress and a national television audience of millions, President Obama will tell us all what a wonderful job he's doing and how great everything is in the country.
He probably won't mention that the country is broke.
He probably won't talk much about the long national nightmare that is the war in Afghanistan.
He's not likely to address the fact that gas prices have doubled since he took office.
He probably won't draw much attention to the fact that the housing crisis still isn't anywhere near being over.
He likely won't mention that the overall standard of living for Americans is in decline.
And I'll bet he won't dwell on the fact that millions and millions of Americans still can't find a job.
Instead he'll likely try to portray whatever problems he addresses as Congress' fault, while at the same time promising that he's going to do much better in the coming year.
The fact of the matter is the state of our union isn't very good.
Here’s my question to you: How confident are you in the state of the union?
When I read these numbers I was stunned. I had no idea that Americans make up fully one half of the world's richest 1%.
When you look at the world's population as a whole, it only takes $34,000 a year per person - after taxes - to be part of the world's richest one percent. A family of four with after tax income of $136,000 would be among the world's richest.
60 million people make up the world's richest one percent. And, according to world bank economist Branko Milanovic, half of them - or 29 million people - lived in the United States as of 2005.
Another 4 million live in Germany. And the rest are scattered throughout Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia.
None of the world's richest 1% live in Africa, China or India - statistically speaking.
Although places like China and India are seeing economic growth, and people there are getting richer, they're starting from a very low base. This also means the emerging middle class in these countries isn't the same as the middle class in developed nations. No cars. No retirement plans. They don't own their own homes.
Milanovic says people in the world's true middle live on around $1,200 a year.
Which means even the poorest 5% of Americans are richer than two-thirds of the entire world. Something to think about.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement targets the so-called 1% with protests in New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington.
These numbers give one percent a whole new meaning.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when Americans make up half of the world's richest 1%?
What's wrong with this picture?
The United States ranks 28th in life expectancy, yet we pay more for health care than any other country in the industrialized world.
The 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is out with a stunning report.
It shows 27 nations live longer than we do - led by Japan. Yet Americans pay nearly $8,000 per person for health care each year. More than any other country in the report.
Only a handful of countries in this report have a lower life expectancy. They include Mexico, Estonia and Turkey.
Meanwhile, despite sky-high spending on health care in the U.S., Americans actually receive less care than other nations.
Our primary care system suffers from shortages of family doctors along with high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for common illnesses like asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.
America also leads all nations when it comes to expensive medical procedures like knee replacements, MRIs and CT scans.
As for pharmaceuticals, they cost about 60% more in the U.S. than in most European countries.
There are some positives for the U.S. health care system here: We have among the world's highest survival rates for breast and colorectal cancer. Also, Americans generally receive good acute hospital care.
But overall there's no doubt our health care system is broken. And that along with questionable lifestyle choices means we're not living as long as we could.
Here’s my question to you: The U.S. is 28th in life expectancy. What’s killing America?
As Occupy Wall Street marks two months of protests, there are questions about exactly what the activists want and more importantly, how they plan to get it.
Patience is wearing thin in cities around the country as officials begin to move against the demonstrators in places such as New York; Oakland and Berkeley, California; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City.
While getting an "A" for perseverance, the occupiers' tent cities are starting to get on people's nerves, which is part of the idea. But some of the tent cities have spawned drugs, crime and violence, things that are not conducive to generating sympathy for their cause.
And speaking of their cause, what exactly is it? With the protesters so widely dispersed, you have to wonder how focused and concentrated their message is. After two months, a lot of us remain unsure of what exactly the message is. More is needed than a vague complaint against corporate greed if they are to remain relevant.
That brings us to something else the movement has been lacking so far: Leaders. Putting a head on this group would perhaps allow them to crystallize their message a little more.
Finally you could make a very strong argument that the major source of our country's problems is Washington. So why are these folks content to wander around places such as New York, Denver, Seattle, Oakland and other places outside the real scene of the crimes.
If you want to fight a fire, you have to go to where the fire is.
Here’s my question to you: What should Occupy Wall Street's next move be?
Poverty in the U.S. is even worse than we thought it was.
There are almost 50 million people living in poverty. That translates to 16% of all Americans.
The Census Bureau adjusted the official 2010 poverty figures up from 46.2 million, or about 15% of Americans. This new poverty rate takes into account higher costs of living.
Hispanic poverty is the highest of any group at more than 28%.
More than 25% of African-Americans are living in poverty, as well as nearly 17% of Asians and 11% of whites.
The biggest gap in poverty rates is between those who have private health insurance, and those who don't.
Meanwhile, a report by the Brookings Institution shows more than 20 million Americans - close to 7% of the population - are living in extreme poverty.
These people are living at less than half of the federal poverty line. In 2010, that meant an individual income of about $5,500 - or less.
This used to be a place where people came to escape poverty.
According to the Wall Street Journal, almost 15% of Americans are getting food stamps - that's an 8% jump in just the last year. And this number could keep climbing as families struggle under high unemployment - still at 9%.
The hardest hit states include Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee and Louisiana. In all these states, about one in five residents gets food stamps.
Here’s my question to you: Where is the U.S. headed if 16% of Americans are living in poverty?
It's called the middle class squeeze, and if it keeps up, the U.S. might not have a middle class one day soon.
A USA Today analysis of Census data finds there are 150 areas nationwide where the share of income going to the middle class shrank from 2006 to 2010.
Middle class households generally means those making between $21,000 and $100,000 a year. It includes the three-fifths of households sandwiched between the rich and the poor.
Experts say this trend dates back to the 1970s. Back then, 53% of the nation's income went to the middle class. In 2010, it was about 46%.
The recent recession has only made things worse as employers cut jobs and hours, furloughed workers and froze salaries. All the while the value of family assets - like homes and investments - went down.
The scariest part is there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight.
Take, for example, my hometown of Reno, Nevada:
Unemployment is at 14% - up from 4% in 2006; and median income has dropped 10% in the same time. Foreclosures are among the highest in the country.
In order to make ends meet, many middle class Americans are cutting back:
Selling off their possessions like cars or furniture, moving in with roommates or family members, cutting cell phones or cable service, shopping at consignment stores, bringing their lunch to work, doing their own household repairs, and cutting back on their 401K contributions.
A sad statement on the middle class that helped build this great country.
Here’s my question to you: What will the United States be like if there is no middle class?
"America must manage its decline."
That's the title of a sobering piece in the Financial Times.
The article explores what the U.S. must do to come to terms with its changing role in the world. If the U.S. and its leaders could actually acknowledge that our global power is in decline today, it would be easier to figure out what comes next.
But politics being what it is, big surprise that no one is being honest here. Instead, it's practically unacceptable to suggest that there may be no "coming back" for the United States of America. And that is the cold, hard truth: There may very well be no coming back.
For now, the U.S. is still the world's largest economy and the top military and diplomatic power. But - a time when China will become the largest economy doesn't seem all that far away.
This article suggests that's why now is the time for America to have a "rational debate about what 'relative decline' means." Decline may not necessarily mean the end of prosperity, but it likely means making choices and alliances.
Turns out, those who refuse to even talk about decline may actually speed up the whole process. By not addressing our changing position in the world, we won't be dealing with other issues that need attention now: Things like deficits and educational reform.
Lastly, the Financial Times article says managing decline has as much to do with psychology as with politics or economics.
Listen, because this is interesting:
Britain had an easier go of it at the end of World War II because it was essentially handing over superpower status to the U.S., a country with a shared heritage. But this could be a much more difficult task for the U.S. if we have to eventually hand over power to China.
Here’s my question to you: Is America in denial about its decline?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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