The conflicting news reports on the housing market can give the casual observer a headache: “December Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Jump to 7-Month High,” shouts Bloomberg. “Housing Starts Decline, [but] Building Permits Rise,” exults the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Google news drearily reports that "2010 Ends as 2nd Worst Year for Home Builders," while CNNMoney.com warns that “Shadow Inventory Threatens Housing Recovery.”
A citizens' taxpayer watchdog group is urging President Obama and the Department of Defense to halt funding on the manufacture of an aircraft engine that would replace the Pratt and Whitney version presently being used in the DOD’s massive Joint Strike Fighter aircraft project. The new engine would be manufactured by General Electric and Rolls Royce.
As world food prices continue to approach crisis levels, and global demand continues to increase, one international organization, The World Economic Forum, warns of possible “social and political instability.” In particular, the cost of corn and soybeans has skyrocketed to the highest they’ve been since July 2008, and experts predict the costs will continue to edge upward.
Keeping in mind that the “beige book” report from the Federal Reserve yesterday is only a compilation of anecdotal reports from businesses across the country, any conclusions in that report that the economy “continued to expand moderately,” and that it “continued to improve, on balance,” should be viewed with extreme caution. For buried in the report were the comments that “the housing sector remains a significant drag on the economy" and that "activity in residential real estate and new home construction remained slow across all Districts.”
With the announcement by Reuters that former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was going to resign shortly from the Obama administration came the temptation to reminisce about Volcker’s influence during the late '70s and early '80s when inflation exceeded 13 percent and interest rates on short-term government Treasury bills hit 21.5 percent.
The United States' current corporate tax rate is far from competitive. Average combined state and federal corporate taxes are 39.2 percent, second highest among industrialized nations, just under Japan's 39.5 percent rate. But this positioning is about to change. On December 16, 2010, Prime Minister Naoto Kan approved a five percent cut on Japan's corporate tax, lowering the rate to under 35 percent.
When Bloomberg polled so-called real estate “experts” about the housing market, they expected a slight pull-back in housing prices of perhaps 0.2 percent when compared to a year ago. Instead, the Case-Shiller Index showed prices dropped four times greater than expected: “The biggest year-over-year decline since December 2009,” according to the group.
Despite their huge numbers and cultural and financial impact on the economy, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have largely been unwilling to face fiscal reality. Robert Samuelson, a frequent writer for Newsweek, noted back in 2007 that “We [he is a Boomer] are trying to pillage our children and grandchildren, putting the country’s future at risk in the process. On one of the great issues of our time, the costs of our retirement, we have adopted a policy of selfish silence.”
Earlier this month the Recover Progress Report summarized, "As of December 1, $466.8 billion of the $787 billion stimulus has been committed to states; $333.8 billion has been paid out." The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009, has been largely forgotten, despite millions of taxpayers' dollars being consumed every day.
Despite being verbally abused and legislatively hamstrung ever since the start of the Obama administration, those CEOs arriving at the Blair House Wednesday for another Summit meeting with the President seemed in good spirits. In a pre-announcement, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, was all smiles: “[This] working session is an opportunity for the president to continue building strong partnerships in the business community.”
America is in the throes of economic hardship. Certain regions of the country, the once thriving Great Lakes Region, the greatest industrial area in the world, and energy-producing states, such as West Virginia and Louisiana, have been particularly hard hit.