From experience I have found that if you want to know the true state of economic affairs in the US when things are not going well, don't look to US mainstream news to give you an honest reporting of the situation; they have a financial vested interest via advertisers, etc... in everything being rosy. A more accurate barometer usually is found by looking to what other nations' newspapers and media are reporting.
From the London "Telegraph"...
"The US is drifting from a financial crisis to a deeper and more insidious social crisis. Self-congratulation by the US authorities that they have this time avoided a repeat of the 1930s is premature.
There is a telling detail in the US retail chain store data for December. Stephen Lewis from Monument Securities points out that luxury outlets saw an 8.1pc rise from a year ago, but discount stores catering to America’s poorer half rose just 1.2pc.
Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue are booming. Sales of Cadillac cars have jumped 35pc, while Porsche’s US sales are up 29pc.
Cartier and Louis Vuitton have helped boost the luxury goods stock index by almost 50pc since October. Yet Best Buy, Target, and Walmart have languished.
Such is the blighted fruit of Federal Reserve policy. The Fed no longer even denies that the purpose of its latest blast of bond purchases, or QE2, is to drive up Wall Street, perhaps because it has so signally failed to achieve its other purpose of driving down borrowing costs.
Yet surely Ben Bernanke’s ‘trickle down’ strategy risks corroding America’s ethic of solidarity long before it does much to help America’s poor.
The retail data can be quirky but it fits in with everything else we know. The numbers of people on food stamps have reached 43.2m, an all time-high of 14pc of the population. Recipients receive debit cards – not stamps – currently worth about $140 a month under President Obama’s stimulus package.
The US Conference of Mayors said visits to soup kitchens are up 24pc this year. There are 643,000 people needing shelter each night.
Jobs data released on Friday was again shocking. The only the reason that headline unemployment fell to 9.4pc was that so many people dropped out of the system altogether.
The actual number of jobs contracted by 260,000 to 153,690,000. The “labour participation rate” for working-age men over 20 dropped to 73.6pc, the lowest since the data series began in 1948. My guess is that this figure exceeds the average for the Great Depression (minus the cruelest year of 1932).
The long-term unemployed (more than six months) have reached 42pc of the total, twice the peak of the early 1990s. Nothing like this has been seen since World War Two."
~Two Americas folks..