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AP-GfK Poll: Most Americans say they don’t believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget ditto …,


AP-GfK Poll: Medicare doesn’t have to be cut
May 23, 2011, 7:02 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — They’re not buying it. Most Americans say they don’t believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year’s elections for president and Congress.

Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Barack Obama’s Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year’s elections.

Medicare seems to be turning into the new third rail of politics.

“I’m pretty confident Medicare will be there, because there would be a rebellion among voters,” said Nicholas Read, 67, a retired teacher who lives near Buffalo, N.Y. “Republicans only got a hint of that this year. They got burned. They touched the hot stove.”

Combined, Social Security and Medicare account for about a third of government spending, a share that will only grow. Economic experts say the cost of retirement programs for an aging society is the most serious budget problem facing the nation. The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare recently warned the programs are “not sustainable” over the long run under current financing.

Nearly every solution for Social Security is politically toxic, because the choices involve cutting benefits or raising taxes. Medicare is even harder to fix because the cost of modern medicine is going up faster than the overall cost of living, outpacing economic growth as well as tax revenues.

“Medicare is an incredibly complex area,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who used to chair the Budget Committee. “It’s a matrix that is almost incomprehensible. Unlike Social Security, which has four or five moving parts, Medicare has hundreds of thousands. There is no single approach to Medicare, whereas with Social Security everyone knows where the problem is.”

That’s not what the public sees, however.

“It’s more a matter of bungling, and lack of oversight, and waste and fraud, and padding of the bureaucracy,” said Carolyn Rodgers, who lives near Memphis, Tenn., and is still working as a legal assistant at 74. “There is no reason why even Medicare, if it had been handled right, couldn’t have been solvent.”

In the poll, 54 percent said it’s possible to balance the budget without cutting spending for Medicare, and 59 percent said the same about Social Security.

Taking both programs together, 48 percent said the government could balance the budget without cutting either one. Democrats and political independents were far more likely than Republicans to say that neither program will have to be cut.

The recession cost millions their jobs and sent retirement savings accounts into a nosedive. It may also have underscored the value of government programs. Social Security kept sending monthly benefits to 55 million recipients, like clockwork; Medicare went on paying for everything from wheelchairs to heart operations.

Overall, 70 percent in the poll said Social Security is “extremely” or “very” important to their financial security in retirement, and 72 percent said so for Medicare. Sixty-two percent said that both programs are extremely or very important.

The sentiment was a lot stronger among the elderly. Eighty-four percent of those 65 or older said both programs are central to their financial security. Compare that to adults under 30, just starting out. Just under half, or 46 percent, said they believed both Social Security and Medicare would be extremely or very important to their financial security in retirement.

Old, middle-aged or just entering the workforce, most people are keenly aware of the cost of health care, and that may be helping to focus more attention on Medicare.

“Health insurance these days is very costly, and it’s not something that most people can afford to go out and buy on their own,” said Tim Messner, 38, a technology quality assurance analyst from Barberton, Ohio. “I don’t know that we could possibly plan ahead for medical insurance, but if you had to replace Social Security or investments, you at least have an idea of what you can live on.”

Numbers tell the story. As health care goes up, the value of Medicare benefits is catching up to Social Security’s. A two-earner couple with average wages retiring in 1980 would have expected to receive health care worth $132,000 through Medicare over their remaining lifetimes, and $446,000, or about three times more, in Social Security payments.

For a similar couple who retired last year, the Medicare benefit will be worth $343,000, compared to Social Security payments totaling $539,000, less than twice as much. The numbers, from economists at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, are adjusted for inflation to allow direct comparison. For low-income single retirees and some couples, the value of expected Medicare benefits already exceeds that of Social Security.

The poll found a deep current of pessimism about the future of Social Security and Medicare. As much as Americans say the programs are indispensable, only 35 percent say it’s extremely or very likely that Social Security will be there to pay benefits through their entire retirement. For Medicare, it was 36 percent.

Again, there’s a sharp difference between what the public believes and what experts say. Most experts say the programs will be there for generations to come. But they may look very different than they do today, and Americans should take note.

“Do they have a basis for worrying that these programs are going to pay them much less than they’re currently promising?” asked economist Charles Blahous. “Yes, absolutely. Do they have a basis for being concerned that the programs may have to be structurally changed in order to survive? The answer to that is yes, too.” A trustee of Social Security and Medicare, Blahous served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush.

Republican lawmakers don’t inspire much confidence right now when it comes to dealing with retirement programs, the poll found. Democrats have the advantage as the party more trusted to do a better job handling Social Security by 52 percent to 34 percent, and Medicare by 54 percent to 33 percent. Often, but not always, major revisions have been accomplished through bipartisan compromise.

Sue DeSantis, 61, a store clerk from West Milton, Ohio, worries she won’t be able to rely on either program. Both are important to her well-being, but she thinks changes are inevitable. And she has little confidence in lawmakers.

“I don’t put my faith in politicians, and I don’t put my faith in the government,” said DeSantis. “I’m a Christian. I believe that God will take care of me. That doesn’t mean I should be foolish and not look at anything, but I don’t believe that the politicians are necessarily going to do the best for the common ordinary person like myself.”

The Associated Press-GfK poll was conducted May 5-9, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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Associated Press Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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Online:

Poll results: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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The US government has maxed out its credit card. Setting up 11-week fight to raise the threshold or …


US hits credit limit, setting up 11-week fight
May 16, 2011, 6:28 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

Hello Reader, What Party Do You Want Running The US Government 2013? Selection Poll B.O.Page!

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has maxed out its credit card.

The United States reached its $14.3 trillion limit on federal borrowing Monday, leaving Congress 11 weeks to raise the threshold or risk a financial panic or another recession.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally notified Congress that the government would halt its investments in two federal pension plans so it won’t exceed the borrowing limit.

Geithner said the government could get by with bookkeeping maneuvers like that through Aug. 2. After that, the government could default on its debt for the first time, threatening the national credit rating and the dollar.

Geithner sent Congress a letter saying he would be unable to make the pension investments in full. He urged Congress to raise the debt limit “in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens.”

Republican leaders in the House have said they won’t raise the debt limit unless the Obama administration first agrees to big spending cuts or to steps to lower the debt over the long run.

House Speaker John Boehner repeated the pledge in a statement Monday. The statement did not address Geithner’s warning about what would happen if the limit were not raised.

“Americans understand we simply can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” Boehner said. “There will be no debt limit increase without serious budget reforms and significant spending cuts.”

Republicans have also ruled out any tax increases, including any plans to end tax cuts for high earners enacted in 2001 and 2003.

“We need to have a vote to lift the debt ceiling because the consequences of not doing so would be quite serious,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “And those who suggest otherwise are whistling past the graveyard.”

If it doesn’t raise the limit, Congress would have to come up with $738 billion to make up for what it planned to borrow through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The options are drastic: Cut 40 percent of the budget through September, which might mean defaulting on payments to investors in government bonds; raise taxes immediately; or some combination of the two.

“In the economic area, this is the equivalent of nuclear war,” says Edward Knight, who was the Treasury Department‘s general counsel during a standoff over the debt ceiling in the mid-1990s.

Here are some questions and answers about the federal debt limit:

Q: What is the debt ceiling?

A: It’s a legal limit on how much debt the government can pile up. The government accumulates debt two ways: It borrows money from investors by issuing Treasury bonds, and it borrows from itself, mostly from Social Security revenue.

In 2010, Congress raised the limit to nearly $14.3 trillion from $12.4 trillion. Three decades ago, the national debt was $908 billion. But Washington spent more than it took in, and the debt rose steadily — surpassing $1 trillion in 1982, then $5 trillion in 1996. It reached $10 trillion in 2008 as the financial crisis and recession dried up tax revenue and as the government spent more on unemployment benefits and other programs.

Congress created the debt limit in 1917. It’s unique to the United States. Most countries let their debts rise automatically when government spending outpaces tax revenue. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t usually create much of a stir. Congress has raised it 10 times since 2001.

A refusal to raise the debt ceiling wouldn’t mean that Congress had begun to solve the nation’s budget problems. It would just mean that lawmakers were refusing to let the government borrow more money to finance programs and tax cuts already approved.

“Having voted to run up the bill, it is utterly irresponsible to prohibit the government from borrowing the money to pay it,” writes Howard Gleckman, resident fellow at the Urban Institute.

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Q: What is the federal debt, and how does it differ from the deficit?

A: The deficit is how much government spending exceeds tax revenue during a year. The government is expected to run a record $1.5 trillion deficit in the current fiscal year. The debt is the sum of deficits past and present. If Congress raises the limit, the debt will reach $15.5 trillion by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The huge deficits and debt reflect tax cuts, wars, the Obama administration’s stimulus program, higher costs of federal health care programs and the recession, which shrank tax revenue and led the government to spend more on social programs.

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Q: What happens now that Treasury has hit its debt limit?

A: It can free up $232 billion by taking what Geithner calls “extraordinary measures.” Besides suspending contributions to federal employee pension funds, the government can halt payments to a government fund that buys and sells foreign currencies.

The most serious debt-ceiling showdown was in 1995. At the time, the debt limit was just $4.9 trillion. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin used gimmicks and juggled the government’s books to keep government finances afloat for four and a half months before Congress and the Clinton White House reached a deal to end the impasse.

Geithner’s Treasury Department won’t have as much cushion because the debt is growing much faster than in the mid-1990s. Geithner estimates he’ll run out of options Aug. 2.

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Q: What would happen if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or whenever Treasury exhausts all its short-options?

A: Things would get ugly fast. “When bills became due, we could not pay all of them,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a bipartisan group that advocates cutting the debt. “If that happens, you shake up markets as you’ve never seen before. … It’s inconceivable we would willingly walk ourselves over the cliff.”

The government needs to borrow $738 billion to get through the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Research Service. Somehow, it would have to close that gap. It could:

— Cut government spending dramatically. To put things in context, $738 billion is equal to 40 percent of the $1.7 trillion that the government is expected to spend in the last six months of the fiscal year. Everything from military salaries to Medicare and Social Security benefits to interest payments on the debt would be vulnerable.

— Come up with $738 billion in new tax revenue, increasing by 66 percent the $1.1 trillion the government is expected to collect in taxes in the second half of the fiscal year.

— Choose a combination of draconian spending cuts and tax increases.

If investors become convinced the U.S. will renege on its debts, they’ll sell Treasurys to avoid the risk that the government might not make good on them. That would drive Treasury prices down and push interest rates up, raising the borrowing costs on everything from mortgages to cars. Higher rates would likely slow the economy.

So far, bond investors are taking the threat in stride; the yield on 10-year Treasury notes remains low at 3.17 percent. U.S. Treasurys are still considered perhaps the safest available investment, a haven for investors worldwide.

As Aug. 2 approaches, there’s a bigger risk that investors will become nervous.

“It would tell the world that the U.S. can’t get its act together, that this is basically a circus,” says William Gross, an influential investor who is managing director of the world’s biggest bond fund, Pimco. “Investors ultimately won’t want to be held hostage by a bunch of clowns.”

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Q: If the consequences are so dire, why is Congress suggesting it might not raise the limit?

A: As the political divide between Republicans and Democrats has widened, the debt ceiling has emerged as a divisive issue. In recent years, the party that doesn’t control the White House has used the issue to whack the party that does.

In 2006, for instance, Senate Democrats voted unanimously against raising the debt limit for President George W. Bush to protest his tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq — a vote that President Barack Obama, then a senator, says he regrets. The situation reversed in 2010: No Senate Republicans supported a higher debt limit for Obama, accusing him of reckless government spending. Congress approved the higher limit anyway because Democrats had a majority in both the House and Senate.

Congress has always ended up raising the debt ceiling before a financial crackup.

Republicans, many of them elected in November on a pledge to slash spending, are betting that the debt-ceiling deadline offers leverage to demand deep budget cuts from the Obama administration.

Obama wants to narrow the federal gaps and reduce debts, in part by reducing spending, in part by ending tax cuts for higher-income Americans enacted under President George W. Bush. But Republican lawmakers say they refuse to consider tax hikes.

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2 out of 5 Americans believe the economy will get better


Americans more upbeat about economy
May 12, 2011, 10:01 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are growing more optimistic about the U.S. economy, a sentiment that is benefiting President Barack Obama despite public disenchantment with his handling of rising gasoline prices and swollen government budget deficits.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows that more than 2 out of 5 people believe the U.S. economy will get better, while a third think it will stay the same and nearly a fourth think it will get worse, a rebound from last month’s more pessimistic attitude. And, for the first time since the 100-day mark of his presidency, slightly more than half approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

Both findings represent a boost for Obama, though he still must overcome ill will over government red ink and the price of gas at the pump, now hovering around $4 a gallon.

But the public’s brighter economic outlook also could signal a boost to the current recovery, which relies to a great degree on consumer behavior. A public that is confident about economic performance is more likely to spend more and accelerate the economy’s resurgence.

The poll was conducted May 5-9 in the aftermath of the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The spike in public esteem for Obama as a result of that successful clandestine mission may have helped Obama’s standing on issues other than national security.

The poll coincides with renewed attention in Washington to the nation’s growing debt and the federal government’s long-term budget deficits, so any positive signs from the public could help Obama push his policy proposals. A bipartisan team of lawmakers is working with Vice President Joe Biden to identify spending cuts. Meanwhile, lawmakers also are discussing major structural changes to the tax system and to the government’s mammoth benefits programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The results of the AP-GfK poll stood out because other surveys taken after bin Laden’s death, while showing a spike in support for the president, continued to indicate dissatisfaction by a majority for his handling of the economy. Still, like the AP-GfK poll, other surveys also found American attitudes about the state of the nation improving.

Forty-five percent of those polled in the AP-GfK survey said the country was now moving in the right direction, an increase of 10 percentage points from five weeks ago. And attitudes about life in general remained positive, with 4 out of 5 respondents saying they were happy or somewhat happy with their circumstances.

“Once you hit bottom the only one way to go is up,” said John Bair, 23, a photographer and filmmaker from Pittsburgh. “Everybody that I come in contact with seems to be on the upswing. I consider that a pretty good thing.”

But Bair, who describes himself as a moderate to conservative independent, doesn’t believe Obama deserves re-election. He strongly disapproves of the president’s handling of gasoline prices and says Obama should do more to increase domestic production of oil.

“When I’m paying $4 for a gallon of gas, it gets me wondering what’s going on,” he said.

Obama has tried to appear engaged on gas prices even though there is little presidents can do to alter market fluctuations. He has called for new renewable energy policies and for eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while conceding those steps will not address the current price increases. The efforts have not given the public much to cheer about, however. A total of 61 percent disapprove of Obama’s approach to the rising cost of gasoline.

Indeed, for all the long-term confidence that the economy will recover, the public is hardly upbeat about the current state of things. Only 21 percent describe the economy as good and 73 percent describe it as poor. About 1 in 5 thought the economy got better during the past month; an equal number thought it got worse.

A favorable jobs report last Friday showed that private companies had exceeded expectations by creating 268,000 jobs last month, the third month of at least 200,000 new jobs. And while unemployment has dropped from a high of 10.1 percent nationally in October 2009, it is now 9 percent, the same as in January.

“We haven’t done anything to create the jobs that (Obama) promised —that all of them promised,” said John Grezaffi, 60, a rancher from Pointe Coupee Parish, La.

Grezaffi, taking a short break from working to shore up his land against a rising Mississippi River on Wednesday, said he somewhat supports Obama but does not support his handling of the economy and believes the country is moving in the wrong direction.

Approaching retirement age, he said he wasn’t eager to see his upcoming benefits shortchanged.

“I’m willing to give up a little, but not everything when you see the waste that occurs in so many other areas,” he said.

Deana Floss, 39, a Springfield, Ohio, restaurant cook and owner of a cleaning business, voiced lukewarm approval for Obama even though she doesn’t care for the state of the economy or Obama’s handling of the nation’s budget deficits.

“I don’t think he has done a very bad job with the economy,” she said. “It was already going downhill when he took the reins.”

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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Associated Press Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

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Working boomers say age a plus at office


Working boomers say age a plus at office

Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Feel like the office geezer? Age may be an asset at work, or no issue at all, according to an AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll.

Nearly half of those born between 1946 and 1964 now work for a younger boss, and most report that they are older than most colleagues. But 61 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said their age is not an issue at work, while 25 percent called it an asset.

Only 14 percent classified getting older as a workplace liability.

In fact, most of those who have reached age 50 noted that co-workers seek their counsel more now than when they were younger. And a third said their employer treats them with greater respect.

“You need to find something you love doing and in a field that you’re comfortable in,” said Cynthia Forwerck, 54, the director of a Charlotte, N.C., church preschool for the past 18 years. She said her age helps when it comes to applying day-to-day experience with young children. But Forwerck still must work at balancing nearly two decades of first-hand knowledge with learning new trends in education.

About two-thirds of poll respondents said they were able to stay abreast of developments in their field and keep up with technology.

“You have to be somewhat creative and adaptive over many years,” Forwerck said.

A small but significant group of boomers report work-related struggles that they attribute to their age. Those who earn less or have fewer savings were least likely to report satisfaction at work. About 1 in 4 boomers still working say they’ll never retire, and about the same fraction say they have saved no money for retirement.

And some are still climbing their own learning curves: One in 5 boomers have been in their current field for less than a decade, the poll found.

The first post-World War II baby boomers reach 65 this year. But two-thirds say they’ll work at least part-time past retirement age for financial reasons, either because they’ll need to or because they’ll want extra spending money. Another 29 percent said they’ll keep working just to stay busy.

It’s an important snapshot of the nature of the nation’s economic rebound at a time when the jobless rate remains persistently high. Workers from the wave of 77 million people born during the post-World War II boom are sweeping toward retirement age and beyond. Even as the economy begins to grow, the swollen workforce at the older end of the spectrum could mean fewer jobs for younger workers and those who became unemployed during the recession.

A Congressional Budget Office report released March 22 found that while boomers are expected to begin leaving the workforce over the next decade, they may also be retiring later in life than previous generations. And that could “substantially dampen growth in the labor force” through 2021, the nonpartisan CBO reported.

It’s not a new trend — in fact, labor force participation rates for workers aged 60 to 69 have been rising through the past decade, CBO said. The reasons are many: Women, who tend to live longer than men, have exhibited greater attachment to the workforce than their earlier cohorts. This group’s overall health is better. And a shift toward fewer jobs requiring physical strength could be a factor, CBO said.

Institutional changes in pension plans, health insurance and Social Security also give older workers more reason to keep their jobs longer, CBO said.

The shift in private pension plans toward defined-contribution arrangements, which depend on the total assets accrued by workers, gives added reason to keep working and keep earning. And employer-provided health insurance for retired workers is becoming less common, giving older workers more reason to keep their jobs until at least age 65, when Medicare kicks in.

Changes in Social Security, too, provide incentive to work for more years, the CBO reported. The gradual increase in the full retirement age from 65 to 66, which applies to the oldest boomers, and to 67, which will apply to the youngest, effectively reduces benefits associated with early retirement and may give older workers reason to stay on the job.

On the question of age discrimination, 82 percent said they have never personally experienced it in the workplace; 18 percent said they had. But that number rose to 24 percent for unmarried women and to 29 percent among boomers reporting job dissatisfaction.

The most oft-cited form of age discrimination was being passed over for a raise, promotion, certain assignments or a chance to get ahead. That was reported by 15 percent of workers 50 and older, although those in lower-income households — or those not currently employed — reported more instances.

David J. Miller, a 55-year-old machinist in Parkton, Md., says he is “doing a job nobody wants” for a new company after he tried to leave management at his old employer and it subsequently moved its headquarters away.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find a job with 30 years of experience, Miller thought.

“But every time I had an interview, it was I’m ‘way overqualified’ even though I was willing to start at the bottom,” Miller said in an interview. “I know what that means: ‘You’re too old.'”

About a fifth of boomers in all said they were dissatisfied with their jobs, and about 3 in 10 said they were dissatisfied with opportunities for advancement and with levels of on-the-job stress.

But the majority, 71 percent, reported being satisfied with their job. And three quarters said they were satisfied with their relationships with co-workers.

The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted from March 4-13 by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif., and involved online interviews with 1,160 baby boomers. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

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AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://work.lifegoesstrong.com/retirement-poll

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Poll: Youth without degrees at end of job line


Poll: Youth without degrees at end of job line

Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s economic upheaval has been especially hard on young people trying to start their working lives with a high school education or less. Only about a third are working full-time, compared with two-thirds of recent college grads, according to an Associated Press-Viacom poll.

Most say money was a major reason they bypassed college, and the vast majority aspire to more education someday.

Christopher Cadaret’s been fixing TVs and stereos for fun since he was 10 years old and thinks he’d like to work in electronics or auto repair. But four months after he dropped out of high school, he hasn’t found any kind of job.

He’s tried a local electronics company, the hardware store, the dollar store, the minimart. Nothing.

“I’m seeking work, anything that is put in front of me,” said Cadaret, 18, who lives with his father in Burkesville, Ky., a small town amid the hills and farmland along the Tennessee border. Without that first toehold on work, his dream of earning enough to save up for technical training seems far away.

Four in 10 of those surveyed whose education stopped at high school are unemployed. Less than a quarter have part-time jobs, the poll of 18- to 24-year-olds found.

The Labor Department’s figures document how much harder it’s become for these young adults to find a job since the recession that began late in 2007. The unemployment rate has been over 20 percent each March for the past three years for high school graduates ages 16-24 who have no college education. That’s up from 10 percent in March 2007 and 14.5 percent a year later.

For college grads that age, March unemployment peaked at 8.5 percent this year. The government’s figures count only those considered actively looking for jobs.

Young adults who skipped higher education are willing to work and have some experience; the vast majority in the AP-Viacom survey have held paying jobs at some point. About two-thirds hold high school diplomas. But a majority — almost six in 10 — say the high school they attended did only a fair to poor job in helping them prepare for work.

About three-fourths worry at least a little about having enough money to get by from week to week.

Almost four in 10 still lean on their parents or relatives for financial support. Still, most feel that their families’ financial situations have held them back, especially those whose families earn less than $50,000 per year, according to the survey conducted in partnership with Stanford University.

Three-fourths of those who bypassed college cite cost as a reason. More than half — 56 percent — say money was “very” or “extremely” important to their decision.

They still believe in the power of higher education. Nearly three-fourths say they hope to return to the classroom someday, either for trade school or college.

“I just feel like I’ve got enough drive and I’m not going to quit,” said high school senior Jonathan McDaniel, who’s made plans to join the Navy when he graduates from high school in Pittsburg, Okla., this spring. “If you work hard enough, you will get where you want to be.”

McDaniel, 18, is interested in pursuing a college degree and maybe a career as a police officer or airplane mechanic. He figures starting out serving on an aircraft carrier “will give me a solid foundation to build my life on.”

Cost isn’t the only reason many stopped school rather than starting college. Almost half say getting real-world experience before going through more school was a key factor in their decision. And almost as many said they were influenced by their ability to find a job right after high school.

“I kind of always knew college wasn’t for me,” said Ayla Godfrey, 19, of Charlotte, N.C. “I was ready to get out and work, and I really didn’t want to go back to school anymore.”

Godfrey said it took her months and more than 100 applications to find work in a clothing store after she graduated from high school in 2009. She later worked as a hostess at an assisted living facility but quit that job after becoming pregnant. Godfrey, who lives with her boyfriend’s family and relies on his paycheck, says she feels confident she’ll find job happiness after her baby is born.

“I have to make a life for my little baby girl, and I’m willing to do whatever I have to do,” she said.

Young people whose education stopped at high school don’t report as much certainty about the future as those in college, but they’re still strikingly optimistic — eight in 10 are at least somewhat confident they’ll find a career that will make them happy.

Most of those with jobs don’t feel they’ve found their calling, however. Six in 10 say their job is just something to get them by, not a career or a stepping stone to one.

And the dismal job market leaves many feeling shut out.

“It’s going to take time for the economy to work itself back up for people to find jobs,” said Cadaret, who keeps looking. Meanwhile, he said, “I’m worried about money all the time.”

The AP-Viacom telephone survey of 1,104 adults ages 18-24 was conducted Feb. 18-March 6 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Stanford University’s participation in this project was made possible by a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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United States government risk losing the nation’s sterling credit rating.


S&P warning: Fix deficit or risk credit rating

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A key credit agency issued an unprecedented warning to the United States government Monday, urging Washington to get a grip on its finances or risk losing the nation’s sterling credit rating.

For the first time, Standard & Poor’s lowered its long-term outlook for the federal government’s fiscal health from “stable” to “negative,” and warned of serious consequences if lawmakers fail to reach a deal to control the massive federal deficit.

An impasse could prompt the agency to strip the government of its top investment rating in the next two years, S&P said. A loss of the triple-A rating would ripple through the American economy, making loans more expensive and credit more difficult to obtain.

The downgrade was interpreted as a rebuke to President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, admonishing them to put politics aside and come up with a long-term financial plan as soon as possible.

“This is a warning: Don’t mess around,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that is pushing for deficit reduction.

Analysts at S&P have never before used the outlook to cast doubt on the nation’s credit worthiness.

In response, stocks suffered their worst slide in a month. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 245 points before recovering to close down 140 points for the day.

“The credit quality of U.S. debt is sacrosanct, and legislators will do everything within their power to avoid a downgrade,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

The government is on pace to run a record $1.5 trillion deficit this year, the third consecutive deficit exceeding $1 trillion.

But so far, S&P sees little chance that the White House and Congress will agree on a deficit-reduction plan before the November 2012 elections, and the rating agency doubts that any plan would be in place until 2014 or later.

Obama and congressional Republicans are sparring over how to reduce the nation’s red ink. If Congress refuses to raise the nation’s debt limit this spring, and the U.S. Treasury lost authority to borrow additional money, the government would not be able to pay its bills and would default on its debt.

Although it’s a worst-case scenario that’s highly unlikely, default by the government means anyone owning federal debt of any kind — bills, notes, bonds — could go unpaid.

Both sides have proposed cutting $4 trillion from future deficits over the next 10 to 12 years.

The White House wants to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and by ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans reject that, calling it a tax increase. They seek instead to narrow the deficit largely by overhauling Medicare and cutting spending elsewhere.

The credit report called the two proposals a “starting point” of the process, but warned that the gap between the parties remained wide.

S&P took no position about how to reduce the deficit or how to change spending and revenue plans.

“But for any plan to be credible, we believe that it would need to secure support from a cross-section of leaders in both parties,” S&P said in its report.

A lower credit rating would drive up the government’s borrowing costs. It could lead to higher interest rates on everything from mortgages to car loans and threaten to slow U.S. economic growth.

Ablin said the credit worthiness of the country is the underpinning on which all other asset classes are valued.

“If all of a sudden the credit quality of U.S. Treasurys isn’t as high as people perceive, we could see erosion of confidence,” he said.

For now, S&P continues to give the U.S. government its top investment ranking. That means S&P believes that the U.S. government can and will repay its debts and that Treasury investments are virtually risk-free. But the agency says the U.S. faces a one in three chance of a downgrade in the next two years. That would likely happen if the White House and Congress could not come up with a credible plan for reducing debt.

The other major credit agencies — Moody’s and Fitch Ratings — did not match S&P’s outlook warning.

S&P gives its top investment rating to just 19 of the 127 countries it analyzes. But it says Britain, France and Germany moved much faster to contain deficits after the 2008 financial crisis and 2007-2009 recession, which cut tax revenues and forced governments to spend more on unemployment benefits, aid to the poor and bailouts of the banking system. Those countries also have top-notch investment ratings.

S&P noted that the U.S. deficit grew to 11 percent of economic activity in 2009, a risky percentage. The deficit averaged less than half that percentage in the previous six years.

The government was beginning to run surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration. But deficits returned after President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, a 2001 recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a massive expansion of Medicare’s drug coverage.

The deficit widened even more after the Great Recession started in 2007, depleting tax revenue and raising spending to stimulate the economy and provide benefits for the unemployed and the poor.

In the past, credit warnings have jolted politicians into action.

In May 2009, Standard & Poor’s downgraded its long-term outlook on the United Kingdom to negative, saying that the country’s debt could double in four years.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative-Liberal coalition government laid out plans to cut nearly 500,000 jobs and reduce welfare spending. Britain’s economy also posted modest gains, and the ratings agency changed its outlook in October back to “stable,” noting the government’s “political resolve.”

In recent months, at least two countries — Portugal and Greece — have had their credit ratings downgraded as they endured financial woes of their own.

The Obama administration embraced Monday’s warning as a welcome call for cooperation among the two political parties. Press secretary Jay Carney said the White House believes the political process will outperform the agency’s expectations because the president and Congress recognize the problem.

A budget showdown is likely in the next few weeks. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said the government will reach its debt limit no later than May 16. He can juggle funds to keep the government running until about July 8, after which the government could not pay its bills.

On Sunday, Geithner said Republican leaders have privately assured the Obama administration that Congress will raise the government’s borrowing limit in time to avoid an unprecedented default on the nation’s debt.

But Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, took a hard line Monday, calling the S&P announcement “a wake-up call to those in Washington asking Congress to blindly increase the debt limit.” He said Republicans would only agree to raise the debt ceiling if the White House agrees to “serious reforms that immediately reduce federal spending and to end the culture of debt in Washington.”

A bipartisan deficit-reduction commission appointed by Obama recommended late last year that about $4 trillion be slashed from budget deficits during the coming decade.

Under the commission’s plan, roughly two-thirds of the savings would come through spending cuts and one-third through increased tax revenue. Although overall tax rates would decline, dozens of popular tax breaks would be scaled back or eliminated, including the child tax credit, mortgage interest deductions and deductions claimed by employers who provide health insurance.

Obama praised the panel for its work, but embraced few of its recommendations, and none of the major ones on new taxes.

For now, U.S. politicians are at a stalemate. “There is bipartisan agreement on the need to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over roughly the next decade,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “Now we just need to resolve how to do it.”

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Associated Press writers Pallavi Gogoi and Janna Herron in New York and Derek Kravitz, Andrew Taylor, Jeannine Aversa and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.

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The world’s major economies are pledging to provide support for the regime changes


Major economies pledge support for regime changes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The world’s major economies are pledging to provide support for the regime changes that are occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. An Obama administration official is comparing what is occurring now to the fall of the Berlin Wall more than two decades ago.

The United States and France issued a joint statement after talks on Thursday saying major nations stood ready with international lending institutions to provide economic support for the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard wrote in an opinion piece that the transformations that were occurring in the region could be as successful in unlocking economic prosperity as events after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said in their statement summarizing the talks that the group would put together a joint action plan with early recommendations coming in May to support “inclusive and sustained growth, transparency and improved governance.”

Brainard wrote in an article for Foreign Policy magazine‘s website that “across the Middle East and North Africa, unprecedented upheavals are creating historic opportunities to expand the circle of democratic societies.”

Brainard cautioned that the reforms and efforts to provide greater economic growth for the region’s young people would take a number of years, with many challenges ahead. “We must be prepared to work through the setbacks and scale up successes,” she wrote.

The discussions on the Middle East occurred at the start of three days of finance talks designed to deal with various challenges facing the global economy, from soaring food and energy prices to continued tensions between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, over currencies and trade.

The United States was being represented at the talks by Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The discussions Friday were taking place among the Group of 20, which includes traditional economic powers such as the United States and European nations and major developing powers such as Brazil, China and India.

Lagarde was leading the talks because France is this year’s head of the G-20, the group that since the financial crisis in 2008 has become the major steering body for the global economy.

The G-20 talks were scheduled to conclude Friday afternoon with a joint statement of goals and news conferences by Lagarde and other finance officials.

The finance talks will wrap up on Saturday with meetings of the policy-setting panels of the 187-nation International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Thursday that a major goal for his institution will be to win support from the rich countries for more assistance to poor nations that are facing food crises. A 36 percent surge in food prices over the past year has pushed an additional 44 million people into poverty.

“We have to put food first and protect the poor and vulnerable, who spend most of their money on food,” Zoellick told reporters Thursday.

The G-20 talks will be focused on making more progress on a set of economic indicators that the group can use to gauge whether countries are pursuing the correct policies to prevent the growth of dangerous imbalances in trade and government debt, which contributed to the last financial crisis.

The United States is pushing for the indicators to be set up, hoping they can be used to bring more pressure on China to allow its currency to rise in value against the dollar as a way to narrow the huge trade gap that exists between China and the U.S.

However, Chinese officials do not want the rebalancing process to be used as a way to attack China’s currency policies, and it was unclear whether any progress will be made during the Washington talks.

“There are lots of things to worry about, and we want to make sure we don’t fall back into another crisis as we did not that long ago,” Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty told reporters.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that while the global economy began growing again last year after the most severe downturn since World War II, there still were multiple risks to the recovery.

“The recovery is getting stronger but … it is not the recovery we want because it is still imbalanced,” Strauss-Kahn said. “We must be aware of complacency, and we need urgent action.”

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Associated Press writer Harry Dunphy contributed to this report.

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