Friday, November 21, 2008

More and more go on dole in States

Yesterday's numbers from the United States certainly don't look good. According to the US government's numbers 542,000 applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's well above what was expected by The Street, and way above the 325,000 or so that one would expect in a "normal" week. Of course these are anything but normal times. The number of people collecting UI on an ongoing basis in America is now over 4 million. It's gotten so bad that Congress has extended benefits by 7 to 20 weeks depending on how bad it is by state to state -- the maximum is usually 26 -- and Dubya who had threatened to veto the bill now signed it early this morning (he probably didn't have much choice given the continuing meltdown).

There is absolutely no question now that the mission in Iraq was misguided from the start and that if the thirty billion or so per month being spent there (plus all the kickbacks various private contractors get on an ongoing basis) was instead spent in the United States, America might not be in the mess they are in right now. Imagine if instead of continuing to explode the deficit, it was announced that prudent measures were being put in to cut waste and the overruns would be cut by half -- overnight? Foreign investment in the States would skyrocket. End of recession, right there.

By the way, on a network news story last night from the States (can't remember which one), I also noticed that they put up signs in Social Security offices saying "Fight UI fraud." Oh, like they tell Americans NOW to fight it? I know desperate times make people do even stupider things but going on the dole is the last thing people would rather do.

I still don't see a depression headed towards America. A steep recession, certainly. Many of the safety valves that weren't around in 1929 are holding back the torrents, albeit barely and central banks are doing what they need to be doing.

But I also think people are going to need patience -- the new administration in the States isn't going to turn things around overnight. Obama's also going to need it too; he (or I should say his handlers) made a lot of his fellow citizens believe he can walk on water even though his campaign slogan was, Yes We Can. At least he emphasized the collective, unlike Secretary of State-in-waiting Hillary Clinton who had "[My] Solutions for America" as her banner.

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