Congress got 25% richer during height of recession?
November 2nd, 2011
02:09 PM ET

Congress got 25% richer during height of recession?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

While millions of Americans struggle under a weak economy, members of Congress keep getting richer. A lot richer.

"Roll Call" reports that members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010.

That was up about 25 percent from 2008, during the height of the recession.

And these wealth totals likely underestimate how rich Congress really is. That's because they don't include homes and other non-income generating property, which could come out to hundreds of millions in additional dollars.

This wealth is split fairly evenly between both Democrats and Republicans.

Overall, about 200 members of Congress are millionaires. Once again, this doesn't include the value of their homes.

There are even a handful of lawmakers who are worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Roll Call analysis shows that 90% of Congress' increase in wealth since 2008 benefited the 50 richest members. Sounds a lot like what's going on in the rest of the country.

What a surprise. Congress is getting richer faster than the rest of us. One economist says aggregate household worth went up 12 percent from 2008 to 2010, about half the increase Congress saw.

Another expert suggests members of Congress do better with their investments than the average American because they are privy to inside information.

Really? Seriously? They would take advantage of that… something that is clearly illegal for the rest of us?

The bottom line is this body of lawmakers has next to nothing in common with the average American. Yet we keep sending most of the same rat pack back year after year.

Here's my question to you: What does it say when members of Congress got 25% richer during the height of the recession?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

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

Filed under: Congress • Recession
October 31st, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Does the weak recovery feel more like a recession to you?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The worst recession since the Great Depression may have ended more than two years ago, but millions of Americans aren't feeling much relief.

The Wall Street Journal highlights some sobering economic statistics that explain why this achingly slow recovery feels more like a recession.

For starters, people are making less money:

The income of the median household - which fell about 3 percent during the recession - has dropped another 7 percent since the recession ended.

It's estimated the income of the typical American household - adjusted for inflation - has fallen well below the January 2000 level.

Then there are the jobs: the national unemployment rate remains stubbornly above 9 percent, and almost half the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months.

And having an education doesn't necessarily help. Research shows that since 2009, median incomes of households led by high school graduates, those with two-year degrees and those with bachelor's degrees all fell.

As for the housing market, it still hasn't rebounded: one in five mortgage holders has a loan bigger than the value of their home.

And a new report out suggests the housing market has even further to fall... with home prices headed for a triple-dip. It says by next June home values will have dropped to a new low of 35 percent below the peak reached in early 2006.

One recent poll shows only 1 in 5 Americans think the economy will improve in the next 12 months.

Here's my question to you: Does the weak recovery feel more like a recession to you?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

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

Filed under: Economy • Recession
December 15th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Do you expect to be better or worse off one year from now?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As millions of Americans continue to suffer from the troubled economy, there are signs that things may be looking up. It's very slow going, but there are some glimmers of hope.

For millions of Americans it's about a job - and unemployment remains stubbornly high, at just under 10 percent.

But economists have a more optimistic outlook for 2011: They're predicting three percent growth in GDP next year. It's not a runaway train, but not terrible either compared to where we've been. Experts have also reduced the odds of a double-dip recession to only about 15 percent.

However, the Federal Reserve struck a cautious note on economic recovery yesterday, saying it is "continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring down unemployment."

The extension of the Bush tax cuts - which passed the Senate a few hours ago - will likely become law soon, as will the extension of unemployment benefits. These measures should bring added relief to nearly everyone.

As for government spending, there's a new sheriff in charge of the Congress.

Republicans are vowing to tackle spending next year after the tax cut extension goes through. It remains to be seen how serious they are about spending cuts - or if they too will continue to add to our $13-plus trillion national debt.

For investors, the stock market is behaving okay, and businesses have a lot of cash on hand. If they ever become convinced things are finally on the mend, they can start hiring and investing.

So how do you think all these ripples in the economy will affect you and your family?

Here’s my question to you: Do you expect to be better or worse off one year from now?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Longevity • Recession • Unemployment • Unemployment / Economy
September 23rd, 2010
02:45 PM ET

Do you feel like recession is over?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's unlikely there were all that many champagne corks popping across the country when we learned this week that the recession officially ended more than a year ago.

And maybe that's because it doesn't feel like the recession has ended…not at all.

A new Gallup Poll shows that 88 percent of those surveyed say now is a "bad time" to find a quality job.

That number is as high as it was one year ago... and higher than it was at this time in 2008, when the recession was under way. Only 55 percent felt this way in 2007, before the recession started.

The bottom line is Americans are waiting for the jobs to come back. It may be a very long wait, and, in fact, a lot of the lost jobs will never come back.

The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, and there are no signs it's going to improve significantly for a while. Since the recession started - more than seven million jobs have been lost. Almost two and a half million homes have been repossessed.

But the National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession, which began in December of 2007, ended in June of 2009. This makes the 18-month long recession the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

Add in weak economic data in the past few months and concerns about a possible double dip recession are growing.

According to CNNMoney.com, a group of top economists say there's a 25 percent risk of a double dip recession in the next year. That's up from a 15 percent chance just six months ago.

Here’s my question to you: Do you feel like the recession is over?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Recession • Unemployment • Unemployment / Economy
September 16th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Stuck in a recession that won't end soon?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Most Americans think the U.S. is stuck in a recession and they don't think the economy will improve any time soon. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows 82 percent of those surveyed say the economy is still in a recession.

54 percent expect things to be the same or worse in a year. That number is up sharply from 35 percent who felt that way last year.

While 45 percent say the economy will be better or fully recovered in a year, that number is down from 65 percent last year.

The poll shows Americans' negativity about the economy has grown; with Republicans, Independents and Democrats all sounding more pessimistic about the future of the economy than they were one year ago.

And you don't have to look far for reasons. Although the economy has posted four consecutive quarters of growth - that growth has been sluggish and inconsistent and weak.

Then there's continuing high unemployment - close to 10 percent - along with soaring underemployment. And, as we told you yesterday in the Cafferty File - poverty is now reaching record levels not seen in decades in this country.

All this goes to show why Americans see the economy as the most important problem facing the country... and the most important issue to their vote.

No doubt President Obama and the Democrats face an uphill battle in proving to the voters - ahead of the midterms - that the billions of dollars spent to help jump start the economy are actually doing that.

Here’s my question to you: Are we stuck in a recession that won’t end any time soon?

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.

Filed under: Recession
June 2nd, 2010
06:00 PM ET

How do you define 'job' in 2010?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The good news is: Jobs are finally starting to come back... the bad news: they're not the kind of jobs many Americans are used to.
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CNNMoney.com reports that many new jobs out there are temporary or contract positions instead of traditional full-time jobs with benefits.

And employers can afford to do this... because with unemployment at nearly 10 percent... there are people lined up willing to take any kind of work they can find.

It's estimated that in the next 10 years more than 40 percent of jobs could be such temporary positions; and that within the next few decades, full-time employees might become the minority of workers in this country. That means most workers won't have benefits like health care, paid vacation and retirement plans - all things many of us have taken for granted for years and years.

Some temporary workers suggest that employers are taking advantage of the weak labor market... and make them feel like 2nd class citizens... we'll find out just how weak that labor market is with a big jobs report due out Friday.

But the fact of the matter is that major changes in demographics also make it easier for employers to rely on temporary workers or independent contractors. For example, lots of younger people are okay with the idea of not being tied to one employer.

Also, with baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare... they don't need to depend on their employer for health care.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that President Obama's health care plan will require employers to provide health benefits for employees - but not for contractors.

That translates to huge savings for employers who hire fewer full-time workers.

Here’s my question to you: How do you define "job" in 2010?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Kevin in Florida writes:
J.O.B. = Just Over Broke. With unemployment rising and an administration doing nothing about it, I see most of us begging in welfare lines. It's time the working and middle class make yet another big American stand and send all of these people packing in Nov. before it's too late!

Michael in New Mexico writes:
What you described as the current situation is what I have been living with since 1976 when I first entered the workforce. I worked in kitchens for 30 years. I had no benefits. I had no regular schedule. I had no livable wage. I had jobs, too many to remember, that used me up and threw me out. Currently I am a security guard. Same deal as before.

Jayne writes:
A job is that place you used to go to at 8 o'clock in the morning and stay until 5, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. Now it's that place far, far away where the Chinese worker – possibly a child – works at your job for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a small percentage of your former salary and without benefits. The wealthy CEO, by the way, still has his job and probably got a 6 figure bonus for outsourcing yours.

T.S. writes:
Is this not a good trend? Did anyone believe we would go from posting job losses to job gains without a period where we had to adjust? Give me a break. Will it go back to exactly how it was? Probably not, but as always we will adjust.

Kay in Camarillo, California writes:
Jack, Any work that pays a person's bills and keeps them out of bankruptcy!

P.S. – Those employers who claim that an "employee" is really an "independent contractor" should count on a visit from the IRS. Falsely classifying an employee as a contractor carries hefty penalties.

Mark in Houston writes:
Jack, When used as a transitive verb, it's exactly what Congress and its related cronies have done to this country.

Scott in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina writes:
Jack, The answer is simple. Ozzie and Harriet don't live here anymore. Neither does their culture.

Filed under: Recession • Unemployment • Unemployment / Economy
April 27th, 2010
01:00 PM ET
April 26th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Is your recession over?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's springtime and the signs of recovery are springing up everywhere... from the nation's ports to its malls, from the factories to car dealerships.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/26/art.shopping.jpg caption=""]
One longshoreman on the docks in Portland, Oregon told the New York Times, "Things are looking up."

There may be something to what he says. Consumer spending - which makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy - was up by four percent during the first quarter... more than double what was expected.

Americans are shopping again - buying furniture, cars and electronics. One retail analyst says on his weekly "mall check" he's seeing lots of women ages 25 to 45 shopping again... one sign of a recovery.

Last month, retail sales were up nine percent; and new home sales were up 27 percent.

But the question is: How strong will the recovery be? It appears that much of the improvement in the economy so far is a result of the $800 billion government stimulus program. Once that money is used up - it's not clear how much consumers will keep spending.

And, another looming factor is when the jobs will come back. Although March saw the biggest surge in hiring in over two years, the U.S. economy has lost about eight million jobs since the start of the recession and the national unemployment rate is still almost 10 percent.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 19 percent of those surveyed say the economy is starting to recover - that's up significantly from January.

46 percent say the economy has stabilized; and 34 percent say it's still in a downturn.

Statistics and poll numbers are one thing…your personal situation is another.

Here’s my question to you: Is your recession over?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Recession • Uncategorized
March 10th, 2010
07:00 PM ET

$10 billion spent on cosmetic procedures despite recession

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

What recession? Despite record unemployment, rising health care costs and sinking home values - Americans shelled out more than $10 billion on cosmetic surgery and other procedures last year.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/10/art.botox.jpg caption="A woman receives a Botox injection. "]
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says there were almost 10 million surgical and non-surgical procedures done in the U.S. in 2009, that's down only two percent from the year before. At least we want to look good for the coming collapse.

About 85 percent of the procedures were non-surgical - things like Botox - which are cheaper than surgery. In total there were 2.5 million Botox injections, more than one million procedures with other chemical fillers and 1.3 million laser hair removals done.

As for surgery, the most popular procedure was breast augmentation. There were 300,000 of those surgeries - followed by liposuction and eyelid surgery.

Some insist there's a direct connection to the lousy economy. One plastic surgeon says a lot of people have cosmetic procedures done to increase their chances of finding a job; he says people think if they look better, they're more likely to get work, and beat out someone who doesn't look as good.

He says even the unemployed are getting work done: "That's their stimulus - spending money trying to get into the workforce."

What a country. As we told you yesterday in the Cafferty File - almost half of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, but millions of us are running off to the plastic surgeon.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean that despite the worst recession since the Great Depression, Americans spent more than $10 billion on cosmetic procedures last year?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 7pm 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: Cosmetic Surgery • Recession
February 23rd, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Is the recession over in your state?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

While there are signs that the national economy is slowly starting to recover - it's still a bleak situation in many of the 50 states.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/10/art.sale.jpg caption=""]
A new report says because of declining revenues, state economies still have not seen the worst of the recession. The National Governors Association says the fiscal year 2011 - which starts this summer - will be "the most difficult to date"... and 2012 won't be much better.

Revenues have been down for five consecutive quarters due to shrinking tax collections - the longest period that states have taken in less money since at least the Great Depression.

The situation is most difficult in places like Oklahoma - where revenue dropped nearly 27 percent last quarter compared to the previous year... or Arizona, which saw a 17 percent drop. Seven states did report an increase in revenue, but it's believed that's more because of tax increases rather than a growing economy.

Meanwhile the drop in revenue comes despite hefty tax increases in many states. At the same time, costs are going up for programs like Medicaid. This means a lot of states will have to either raise taxes some more - or cut spending and jobs.

States face a combined budget gap of $134 billion over the next three years, and because states actually have to balance their budgets it's not going to be pretty. Plus the states are facing a combined $1 trillion shortfall for employees pensions and retirement benefits.

Some governors are banking on getting more money from the federal government - but that's money that hasn't even been approved yet.

Here’s my question to you: Is the recession over in your state?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Recession
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