U.S. Economic/Financial News
Senator Clinton: U.S. Economy 'Standing on a Trap Door'
"America's leaders don't have a vision, and the economy may be on the brink of collapse," Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) told a private audience of Brandeis University alumni in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 23. Clinton also said that a chance to invest in a national energy policy may be lost, and flaws in the American health-care system are unaddressed, because President Bush is looking the other way. "I don't see that thoughtful, visionary direction that got us where we are today.... The history of America is ... to make sacrifices today for a better tomorrow. The progress that then occurred moved everyone forward.... That progress is at risk today," Clinton warned, according to the Palm Beach Post Jan. 25.
Clinton reportedly contrasted the achievements and legacies of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (highways), John F. Kennedy, (space exploration), and Lyndon Johnson (civil rights) with the failures of the Bush Administration to invest in anything for the future. Of President Clinton, she said, my husband did it just right. Noting that he had fought some hard battles, she added; "Frankly, it is not that hard cutting people's taxes." Returning to the economy, she reportedly shocked the audience by telling them that the United States borrows $50 million each month from other countries, and said, "I think the economy is standing on a trap door, and I don't know that we necessarily hold the levers."
The Bush Administration apparently was stung by Clinton's statement, since House Budget Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told the Washington Times that Clinton's characterization of the economy was inaccurate. Spicer said, "Economic data, the outlook of top private forecasters, and the Federal Reserve show that the U.S. economy is in a sustained expansion with moderately strong growth, falling unemployment, and increases in payroll jobs."
(It should be noted that while two press sources reported on Senator Clinton's reference to the brink of collapse of the economy, the formulation does not appear in the transcript of the speech posted on her website.)
U.S. Budget Still Drowning in Red Ink
While the Congress and the White House are dueling over the budget deficit, the Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this month that the government ran a deficit of $114 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2005, which ran from October to December 2004. While that appears to be an improvement over the previous year, when the deficit for the same period was $126 billion, the Bush Administration is still digging a mighty deep hole even deeper. President Bush, himself, said, during his press conference on Jan. 26, that the Office of Management and Budget is forecasting a deficit for 2005 of $427 billion, which, unlike the $368 billion figure released by the CBO earlier this week, allegedly includes the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the director of the CBO, also said, earlier this week, that $99 billion is projected to be borrowed from the surplus of Social Security, so that the real on-budget deficit projection, as of now, is at least $526 billion.
U.S. Infant Mortality Rises; First Time in 45 Years
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), covered in the Washington Times Jan. 25, shows an increase in U.S. infant mortality, a key indicator of the physical-economic health of a nation. This is the first such increase in 45 years, i.e., since 1960.
In 2001, U.S. infant mortality was 6.8 per 1,000 births; in 2002, that figure was 7 per 1,000, with 27,970 newborn deaths nationwide. Worldwide, the U.S. has not even ranked in the top 10 nations for lowest infant mortality. Most European countries have about 4/1,000; Japan is on top with 3.3 deaths per thousand. While the U.S. definitely fares better than China, for example, with 25.4 per thousand, and most African countries above 50, it is the direction of the rate that indicates whether an economy is improving or declining.
Wal-Mart Workers on Medicaid
A quarter of Wal-Mart's Tennessee workforce receives health care through the state's Medicaid program, TennCare, not from the company's self-touted health-care benefits, the AFL-CIO's "Work in Progress" reported Jan. 24. A survey by TennCare and the state Department of Labor found that 9,617 of the retailer's 37,000 workers were enrolled in TennCare, designed to provide health care for low-income workers. In a recent advertising campaign, Wal-Mart claimed that its wages and health-care benefits provide its workers with a good standard of living and quality health care.