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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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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: 

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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.,

Owner and Founder of: 

Thank you for visiting, do come back for more news…
Warmest regards,

PS., Hello Reader, What Party Do You Want Running The US Government 2013? Make Your Selection Below!

Rising oil prices beginning to hurt US economy


Rising oil prices beginning to hurt US economy
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,Owner and Founder of: https://economicnewsblog.wordpress.com and http://LedSomeBioMetrics.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just when companies have finally stepped up hiring, rising oil prices are threatening to halt the U.S. economy’s gains.

Some economists are scaling back their estimates for growth this year, in part because flat wages have left households struggling to pay higher gasoline prices.

Oil has topped $108 a barrel, the highest price since 2008. Regular unleaded gasoline now goes for an average $3.69 a gallon, according to AAA’s daily fuel gauge survey, up 86 cents from a year ago.

The higher costs have been driven by unrest in Libya and other oil-producing Middle East countries, along with rising energy demand from a strengthening U.S. economy.

Airlines, shipping companies and other U.S. businesses have been squeezed. The rising prices are further straining an economy struggling with high unemployment and a depressed housing market.

“The surge in oil prices since the end of last year is already doing significant damage to the economy,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Unlike other kinds of consumer spending, gasoline purchases provide less benefit for the U.S. economy. About half the revenue flows to oil exporting countries like Saudi Arabia and Canada, though U.S. oil companies and gasoline retailers also benefit.

For consumers, more expensive energy siphons away money that would otherwise be used for household purchases, from cars and furniture to clothing and vacations.

High energy prices are “putting a drain on consumer budgets,” says James Hamilton at the University of California, San Diego. “To the extent they’re having to spend more on gasoline, they have to make cutbacks elsewhere.”

Two-thirds of Americans say they expect rising gasoline prices to cause hardship for them or their families in the next six months, according to a new Associated Press-GfK Poll. The telephone poll conducted March 24-28 had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Seventy-one percent say they’re cutting back on other expenses to make up for higher pump prices. Sixty-four percent say they’re driving less. And 53 percent say they’re changing vacation plans to stay closer to home.

“I try to leave the car parked at home all day Saturday,” says Curt Lindsay, who commutes an hour each way to his job as a computer systems administrator outside Washington, D.C. “I’d rather not spend the money on gasoline.”

Since gasoline prices topped $3 a gallon, Lindsay has also been trying to drive more slowly to conserve fuel.

His co-worker Albert Zaza canceled family trips to New York and Boston after the cost of filling up his Honda CRV surged from $35 to $47. Zaza spends four to five hours in traffic each day and has to fill up every other day.

Rising fuel prices are pinching businesses too.

In Tipton, Iowa, Grasshopper Lawn Care is tacking 5 percent onto customers’ bills to compensate for higher fuel costs. The company has to buy more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline a year. It plans to keep the surcharge until gasoline prices dip back below $3 a gallon, owner Dan Kessler says.

The oil shock and global instability are diluting the benefits of an improving job market. The unemployment rate, though still high, is at a two-year low. And the economy has just produced the strongest two months of hiring since before the recession began.

Bernard Baumohl, chief economist at the Economic Outlook Group, has slashed his estimate for growth this year to 2.8 percent from 3.5 percent. In 20010, the economy grew 2.9 percent.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. After adjusting for inflation and for seasonal factors, consumers spent 0.3 percent more in February than in January.

But that’s unlikely to last. Gasoline prices are surging just as inflation-adjusted incomes are falling. More expensive gas is draining much of the cash Americans are receiving from a cut in Social Security taxes this year.

Zandi estimates that higher oil prices shaved 0.5 percentage point from growth in the January-March quarter. He predicts the economy grew 2.6 percent during the quarter.

If oil prices average $100 a barrel for the year, Zandi says, growth will be 0.3 percentage point lower than if prices had stayed at last year’s level — an average of less than $80 a barrel. A few months of $125-a-barrel oil would slash economic growth by a full percentage point, Zandi says. And a few months at $150 a barrel could push the economy back into recession.

Surging oil prices don’t hurt everybody in the United States. Oil companies, for example, stand to gain. In 2008, Exxon Mobil Corp. earned $45 billion — a record for a U.S. company — after oil prices hit a record $150 a barrel.

Oil services companies such as Halliburton Co., Schlumberger Ltd. and Baker Hughes Inc. also benefit as the oil industry rushes to find and produce more oil. And the products of biodiesel and other alternative energy companies become more competitive the higher oil prices go.

In a speech last week, Sandra Pianalto, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, offered hope that higher oil prices won’t persist long enough to do much damage.

“Large increases in food or energy prices tend to be temporary,” Pianalto said. “History shows that they are often followed by sharp declines.”

But Mark Pawlak, a market strategist at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, says he worries about a repeat of what happened to the economy last year: It built momentum at the start of 2010, only to stall in the face of a European debt crisis and a run-up in oil prices from February to April.

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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of:

Thank you for visiting, do come back for more news…
Warmest regards,

The uneasy ties of Americans and their government


Feb. 2, 2011, 7:20 a.m. EST
Published Through Associated Press

Posted by Public Blog News Posting Service: http://publicblognewspostingservice.com

He said that would be like solving homelessness by passing a law making people buy a house.

A step too far. Not the American way.

That was Barack Obama, presidential hopeful.

Like every leader and many citizens, he was searching for the right balance between what government should do for people and what people should do for themselves.

His answer on that point changed. But in the United States, the question never does.

A debate that began in the bloody throes of revolution has persisted through history’s pendulum swings left and right: the New Deal activism of Franklin Roosevelt, the pushback of Ronald Reagan, the squishy years of Bill Clinton’s “third way” and George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” the ambitious agenda of Obama.

Then that debate landed in a Florida courtroom, where U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson examined the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, marveled at all its moving parts, likened it to a “finely crafted” timepiece and took a hammer to it.

“The Act,” he wrote, “needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker.” Meaning Congress.

Vinson ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to force people to get health insurance. Never before, he said, has Congress made people buy something “just for being alive and residing in the United States.”

The law remains in effect pending appeals and a likely Supreme Court showdown. The judicial scorecard now is 2-2 for and against the law in challenges brought by states.

In most other richer countries, it’s an article of faith that government will help with health care, just as it provides public education and tightly controls guns. Universal health care programs are a source of national pride despite vigorous complaints about service and cost.

But in the U.S., the unfolding court cases and political donnybrook have made clear that the law, a massively complex instrument that stuffs a dozen acts together and touches every aspect of medicine, hit a simple nerve.

Americans don’t yield easily to being told by their government what to do.

They are suspicious that a helping hand will become a heavy hand — that Washington’s offer of end-of-life counseling will turn into a federal death panel, that an attempt to control childhood obesity will lead to the feds crushing grade-school bake sales.

Reagan’s cry that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” echoes on one side of the debate.

Even so, Americans elect many Democrats.

They elected Obama, who ran on an agenda packed with hundreds of specific things, large and small, that he promised the government would do.

Indeed, the federal government has been a growing presence in Americans’ lives for generations.

Due mostly to Medicare and Medicaid, for example, Washington picks up 43 percent of the nation’s health bills, a share that the new law is expected to raise only incrementally in the years ahead.

The government makes laws to keep Americans safe from toxic water and air, to ensure baby strollers aren’t dangerous and to regulate precisely how many maggots and mites a can of food may properly contain.

Americans might possess a residual frontier mentality, but those pioneers never saw a Social Security check — and woe to any politician who tries to pry that entitlement out of anyone’s hands now.

Ask people what they want the government to do and the answers are none too helpful for leaders who are trying to divine which way the winds are blowing.

On the health care law, public opinion is about as complicated as the statute itself. In an AP-GfK poll last month, 41 percent opposed the law and 40 percent supported it, just one of a battery of surveys that have pointed to widespread public unease about the overhaul but an unwillingness to just let it go.

Two months earlier, an AP-CNBC poll asked people about cutting the federal budget and found scant support for taking money away from specific services.

On programs big enough to make a difference, like Social Security, farm subsidies and Medicare, people were split. And they were broadly against cutting money for education or homeland security.

Vinson, a Reagan appointee who paid out of pocket for the birth of his first child, presided over a case in which both sides and the judge visited the touchstones of history that have helped shape what the federal government can and cannot force everyone to do.

To aid the government’s case, it was pointed out that the Judiciary Act of 1789 required men to serve in a posse. There have been mandates to serve on a jury, participate in the census, submit to eminent domain and exchange gold bullion for paper currency.

The court reviewed the 1942 case of poor Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio farmer who was prosecuted for growing 239 more bushels of wheat than the federal government allowed even though the grain was to feed his own chickens, not manipulate prices. The Supreme Court ruled against him, extending Washington’s power to regulate commerce.

In his ruling, though, Vinson ended up in the pocket of the tea party — the Boston Tea Party, that is.

It is difficult to imagine, he said, that a people who revolted against Britain’s colonial tea tax “would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea.”

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Warmest regards,
Calvin L. Ledsome Sr.,


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