The release last week of the Federal Reserve’s much-anticipated three-year study of America’s finances, its Survey of Consumer Finances, confirmed what many families already know: Between 2007 and 2010 the average family’s net worth declined by nearly 40 percent, mostly because of the decline in housing prices. The Fed study also confirmed that their incomes also fell significantly in real terms, by nearly eight percent.
The “Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012,” announced Wednesday by three Democratic lawmakers — Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) — would spike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 while mandating that future increases be tied to inflation.
But leaders in the business community say increases in the minimum wage only exacerbate unemployment, as companies must cut their payroll, especially when dealing with a stagnant economy.
As the Greek economy descends into political and economic chaos, it's only natural for Americans to wonder how the United States can avoid such a catastrophe. Greece is descending into a debt vortex from borrowing too much, and can no longer keep up with domestic demands for social welfare payments.
The debt abyss is an economic reality already known to millions of American families who made risky bets on the housing market just before the economic crash, or racked up massive credit card debt. Those families know that the solution to restoring a sustainable and prosperous future is not to keep on spending wantonly, but to make painful lifestyle adjustments that cut spending drastically and begin to pay off the debt. A nation, like a family, that lives above its means for a time must eventually live beneath its means to pay off the debts.
Last Friday the City Council of North Las Vegas, Nevada’s fourth largest city just north and east of Las Vegas, voted unanimously to suspend part of its union agreement in order to balance its budget. With property tax and general tax revenues down by more than 30 percent in just the last three years, North Las Vegas was facing a shortfall of $30 million in its $500 million budget.
Under state law it must submit a balanced budget by June 1. Negotiations with three public employee unions, the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association (POA), the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association (PSA), and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), began in January but the unions refused to make the concessions necessary to keep the city solvent.
The latest report from the nonpartisan Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College was brutal in its assessment of the status of state and local pension plans and their ability to keep their promises to their beneficiaries and retirees. With public pension funds underfunded by half, those states, cities and municipalities — and their taxpayers — would have to double their contributions to those plans just to have any chance of them avoiding default on their promises to those depending on them for their retirement.