Discussing some promising economic developments today during a visit to the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, President Barack Obama said that more private sector jobs were created in 2011 than in any year since 2005.
** QUICK HITS. Mitt Romney’s longtime lead in New Hampshire is holding up so far in new polling. Rick Santorum’s Iowa draw is proving far less damaging for him, at least in his adopted state, than Newt Gingrich’s Iowa win would have been. But Romney faces some real peril over the weekend in the form of not one but two debates in the Granite State. Stay tuned. … Meanwhile, some new polling indicates fresh enthusiasm for Barack Obama on the part of Democratic base voters, equivalent to that amongst Republican base voters for their choices. Which may, admittedly, be a form of damning with faint praise. … In California politics, as expected, a drive to block the state’s “Dream Act” providing illegal immigrants with college assistance has fallen far short of making the ballot. … But a bid to try to block the bipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission’s new state Senate districts is inching closer to qualification. The question may be if there is any time to come up with districts different from those developed by the popularly-approved commission, which have already been judged constitutional by the state Supreme Court, whose job it might be to devise alternative districts.
** NEW SURVEY: VERY MODEST RISE IN CONSUMER SPENDING TO CLOSE OUT 2011. A new Gallup Poll survey has more muted good economic news.
Consumer spending rose in December.
However, it is only slightly ahead of consumer spending in the previous two Decembers, making it almost flat when inflation is factored in.
Consumer spending for 2011 as a whole is up slightly over the past two years.
But it is far lower than it was in 2008, before it was widely understood that the economy was in a tailspin.
Spending is down 17% among higher-income Americans compared to 2008.
But it is down an even more stunning 38% among low-income Americans.
This is still an economy in need of a serious jump-start, with vast amounts of capital still sitting on the sidelines a few years after the big bailout of the financial sector.
Americans’ self-reported daily spending averaged $76 in December, up from $71 in November and the highest monthly average of 2011. However, December’s spending level is not remarkably high when compared with average spending in several other months over the past two years, including both Decembers: $75 in 2010 and $72 in 2009. …
More broadly, self-reported daily spending throughout 2011, as measured in Gallup Daily tracking, averaged $67, up just slightly from $65 in 2010 and $64 in 2009. Average spending in all three years was well below the $96 of 2008, Gallup’s initial measurement year. Americans’ self-reported spending plummeted in January 2009 after the start of the global financial crisis in October 2008, and has not yet rebounded.
The same pattern is seen among high-income Americans and those making less than $90,000 per year. Average annual spending by each group from 2009 through 2011 was fairly flat after the much higher spending levels of 2008. …
A key difference in average daily spending by income is the rate of decline between 2008 and 2011. Average daily spending among upper-income Americans was 17% lower in 2011 than in 2008. The spending of those in the three lower income groups declined by greater proportions, as much as -38% among those making less than $24,000 per year. …
A burst of hiring in December has the unemployment rate at its lowest level in nearly three years, giving the economy a boost at the end of 2011.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then visited staff and delivered brief remarks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
He’s just made former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray head of the watchdog agency.
At 9:15 AM Pacific, Obama has lunch with winners of a campaign contest at a nearby hotel.
Obama received good economic news this morning.
The economy grew by nearly 200,000 jobs last month, the most in several years and a continuation of job growth for most of the year. Unemployment is officially down to 8.5%, which is where the Gallup survey previously had it.
On this Friday before the New Hampshire primary, Jon Huntsman, who is in position to do relatively well there after not playing at all in Iowa, garnered the endorsement of the neighboring Boston Globe, which ripped into semi-native son Mitt Romney.
But does the endorsement of the Globe mean all that much to voters in a GOP primary in New Hampshire? Perhaps it does to some remaining moderate Republicans, not to mention independents who may participate.
Looking at Romney’s economic plans reveals that they mostly provide direct benefit to high income individuals and corporations.
Just like his friend and protege Meg Whitman in her race for governor of California.
Romney’s plan significantly lowers taxes for the rich, raises them for the working and lower middle classes, and boosts the federal budget deficit, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.
I’ve mentioned that Romney’s apparent eight vote-edge in Iowa was rather suspect, since the party refused a recount. Now there are first-hand reports of inflated votes for Romney.
The man who ran a dead heat race with Romney in Iowa, Rick Santorum, alternately impressed and screwed up yesterday in New Hampshire, where he has some movement in the polls. He appeared a thoughtful conservative in town hall formats, which is good for his prospects. But he got into an unseemly set-to with some college students over gay marriage, which does not seem presidential, comparing same sex marriage with polygamy.
I wonder why he would have polygamy on his mind. Could it be that it’s one of the most famous, yet now banned, practices of the Mormon Church?
Other world powers are assessing President Barack Obama announcement of the biggest strategy review in years, to try and make the U.S. military leaner and cheaper. It includes changing from large ground wars, to what he says will be an expanded agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, other global powers are assessing Obama’s announcement yesterday of a new military direction for the US.
Implicit in Obama’s approach, which for the first time formally eschews longstanding US doctrine demanding a force capable of fighting and winning two simultaneous Korean War-scale conflicts, is the failure of our adventures in invasion/counter-insurgency/nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s counter-terrorism that has shattered Al Qaeda, not counter-insurgency. And so Obama is looking more to intelligence, technology, and special ops forces to deal with the jihadist threat as the US focus pivots to the Asia Pacific region.
There’s a lot more to say about this as it plays out, for it has many interrelated implications for the US and its allies and friendly and not so friendly rivals, and I will be writing on it.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Time: Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN 2.0 AT 1.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on his new state budget, the upcoming State of the State address, and various political plans for 2012, including his big revenue initiative to couple with additional cuts in order to bring the budget into balance.
** IOWA THEN AND NOW. The chaotic jumble of holding the Iowa presidential caucuses on January 3rd is now fully apparent. With rampant confusion about who will actually participate, and yoyo-ing swings in support — all playing out against a bizarre backdrop of the holidays, millions in disembodied attack ads, and Barack Obama pondering a US-Iran showdown in the Strait of Hormuz — the folly of the accelerated nomination calendar is clear. … From my December 30th essay.
** IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD CAST IN THE GOP’S RACE TO CASA BLANCA. The Republican presidential race was a reality TV show. But now that the primaries and caucuses are coming right up, it’s a road picture. Here’s how each candidate, a distinct type, is doing right now. … From my December 24th essay.
** KEYSTONE PIPELINE: SMALL PART OF A VERY BIG PICTURE. … From my December 21st essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN. … From my December 17th column.
** JERRY BROWN PULLS A TRIGGER, INVOKES ROME, AND FOCUSES ON CLIMATE AND INITIATIVES. … From my December 14th feature.
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! … From my December 11th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: ACTION BEGETS FLAWED REACTION. … From my December 10th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: IN IOWA, A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN FOUR WEEKS. … From my December 6th column.
** JERRY BROWN AND THE 2012 INITIATIVE WARS. … From my December 3rd feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $101 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $67 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $13 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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