Monday, October 22, 2012

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Visiting the US is always an experience.  Especially during the Presidential Election season.  Bloomberg Business Week has presented a comparison between USA (August 2012) and USA (January 2009).  Interesting comparisons.

Income is flat.  The average median household income has only seen 0.2% increase. $50,590 v $50,678.

Food costs have gone up.  According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food and beverage costs for a typical market basket rose nearly 7% over the past 4 years.  Only tomatoes and potatoes appear to have decreased in price over the period.

College tuition fees have jumped 19%.  Textbooks have jumped 22%.

But TV proces have fallen 57% over the past 4 years!

At the same time the buying power of the US dollar has shrunken by almost 8.2%.  This is inevitable, given that prices have increased against flat income.

There is worst to come - homes have lost value.  Bloomberg has an article about 16 homes in North Las Vegas that tell the story of the housing bubble.  Homes that were purchased in acess of $200,000 are now worth less than $100,000.  More than 50% home value has been lost.  This would affect the middle and lower-middle class.

Unemployment has increased from 6.1% to 7.8%.  And the figures could have been worst, if not for the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Feb 2009.  This legislation is credited with creating or saving 700,000 to 3.3m jobs in 2010, and 400,000 to 2.6m jobs in 2011.  But at what cost?  Almost $1.5 trillion.  This is the price that Americans will have to pay for stimulus.  A debt default in 2011 was averted by Congress that saw both parties agreeing to reduce spending by at least $2.1trillion over 10 years.  It did not stop S&P lowering USA's credit rating to AA+.

In terms of foreign affairs - the administration has strained relations with Israel and Russia.  This will not be mended soon.  But the respect of the world diminishes if the US economy is still floundering.

Is it all bad news?  Osama Bin Laden is dead.  Obamacare was passed (Affordable Care Act aims to extend healthcare affordability to all Americans).  The federal government has not grown as GOP critics expected.  Only 0.8% over the past 4 years.  America is also less dependent on foreign energy, and this is good news.

As of today, the candidates are tied in a dead heat.

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