U.S. consumer prices fell in November at the fastest rate since 1932, the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Labor Department reported Tuesday

MarketWatch.com reported the following today:

“U.S. consumer prices fell in November at the fastest rate since 1932, the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, as prices for energy, commodities and airline fares plunged across the country.

The U.S. consumer price index fell by a seasonally adjusted 1.7%, the department reported, the biggest drop since the government began adjusting the CPI for seasonal factors in 1947.
But on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI fell by 1.9%, the biggest decline since January 1932, at the nadir of the Great Depression. Read MarketWatch First Take commentary.
“This is scary stuff,” said Mike Schenk, an economist for Credit Union National Association. “We are teetering on the brink of a massive downward spiral. Deflation is a threat.”
The seasonally adjusted core CPI was flat in November. Read the report.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting the CPI to fall by 1.4%. They forecast that the core CPI would rise by 0.1%. See Economic Calendar.
Energy prices declined by a seasonally adjusted 17%, the most since February 1957. Gasoline prices plunged by 29.5% in November, the most since the government began keeping records in February 1967. Fuel oil prices dropped by 7.2%. Commodities prices declined by 4.1% in November.
The CPI data is one of the last pieces of the economic puzzle that the Federal Reserve will have to mull before its announcement about interest rates later Tuesday. The policy-making Federal Open Market Committee is almost universally expected to cut its target for overnight interest rates to 0.5% from 1%….”
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Thomas L. Freidman’s Op-Ed in today’s New York Times, a lucid appraisal of an absurd VP selection for McCain and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

The following is an Op-Ed piece by ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’ author, Thomas L. Freidman, published today in the New York Times: (see the original by clicking here.)

Criticizing Sarah Palin is truly shooting fish in a barrel. But given the huge attention she is getting, you can’t just ignore what she has to say. And there was one thing she said in the debate with Joe Biden that really sticks in my craw. It was when she turned to Biden and declared: “You said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic.”

What an awful statement. Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Sorry, I grew up in a very middle-class family in a very middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, and my parents taught me that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I can understand someone saying that the government has no business bailing out the financial system, but I can’t understand someone arguing that we should do that but not pay for it with taxes. I can understand someone saying we have no business in Iraq, but I can’t understand someone who advocates staying in Iraq until “victory” declaring that paying taxes to fund that is not patriotic.

How in the world can conservative commentators write with a straight face that this woman should be vice president of the United States? Do these people understand what serious trouble our country is in right now?

We are in the middle of an economic perfect storm, and we don’t know how much worse it’s going to get. People all over the world are hoarding cash, and no bank feels that it can fully trust anyone it is doing business with anywhere in the world. Did you notice that the government of Iceland just seized the country’s second-largest bank and today is begging Russia for a $5 billion loan to stave off “national bankruptcy.” What does that say? It tells you that financial globalization has gone so much farther and faster than regulatory institutions could govern it. Our crisis could bankrupt Iceland! Who knew?

And we have not yet even felt the full economic brunt here. I fear we may be at that moment just before the tsunami hits — when the birds take flight and the insects stop chirping because their acute senses can feel what is coming before humans can. At this moment, only good governance can save us. I am not sure that this crisis will end without every government in every major economy guaranteeing the creditworthiness of every financial institution it regulates. That may be the only way to get lending going again. Organizing something that big and complex will take some really smart governance and seasoned leadership.

Whether or not I agree with John McCain, he is of presidential timber. But putting the country in the position where a total novice like Sarah Palin could be asked to steer us through possibly the most serious economic crisis of our lives is flat out reckless. It is the opposite of conservative.

And please don’t tell me she will hire smart advisers. What happens when her two smartest advisers disagree?

And please also don’t tell me she is an “energy expert.” She is an energy expert exactly the same way the king of Saudi Arabia is an energy expert — by accident of residence. Palin happens to be governor of the Saudi Arabia of America — Alaska — and the only energy expertise she has is the same as the king of Saudi Arabia’s. It’s about how the windfall profits from the oil in their respective kingdoms should be divided between the oil companies and the people.

At least the king of Saudi Arabia, in advocating “drill baby drill,” is serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. My problem with Palin is that she is also serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. That’s not patriotic. Patriotic is offering a plan to build our economy — not by tax cuts or punching more holes in the ground, but by empowering more Americans to work in productive and innovative jobs. If Palin has that kind of a plan, I haven’t heard it.”

U.S. and post World War I German republic share monetary policies, lets pray it does not lead to the same results…

Read a great new post about the US economy and monetary policy here, this is an excerpt:

“…We are reaching a point, however, where the economic issues facing our nation are becoming a grave moral concern. What happens when we run out of money? When foreign countries dump our currency? When the dollar completely tanks? When unemployment soars?

Ever heard of the Weimar Republic? That period of post World War I Germany where inflation had spiralled so far out of control that the German Mark, which had an exchange rate of 4.2 to the American Dollar in 1914 had reached an unfathomable low of 2 TRILLION marks to the dollar by 1923? People were bringing cash to the store by the wheelbarrow full to buy things like a loaf of bread. Nearly 1,800 government printing presses were running around the clock just to produce enough cash. (For more on this aspect of Weimar Germany, go here.)

What had precipitated this massive decline? A huge war debt, financed only partially by taxes. The bulk was paid for by loans, the sale of treasury bills, and an increased monetary supply.

Sound familiar?

We need to get this country’s spending under control. We are making ourselves vulnerable in so many ways. Economic crisis leads to real suffering – extreme poverty, starvation, loss of life…”

Tax Rebate checks to American taxpayers will be mailed starting May 2.

Tax rebate checks will be distributed to most tax-paying Americans. The rebates serve as a one-time tax cut initially based on their 2007 incomes.

Overall, the Treasury will distribute more than $110 billion to 130 million taxpayers by July.

Who will be getting checks?

One-time payments will be sent to at least 117 million low- and middle-income households, 20 million senior citizens living off of Social Security and 250,000 disabled veterans.

To be eligible for a full rebate, single tax filers must have 2007 adjusted gross income (AGI) below $75,000 and joint filers must have AGI below $150,000.

Single filers with AGI below $75,000 will get rebates of as much as $600. Couples with AGI below $150,000 will receive rebates of up to $1,200.

In addition, parents will also receive $300 per child under 17; there is no cap on the number of qualifying children eligible.

Tax filers who do not owe income taxes, but have at least $3,000 in income – which can include Social Security and disability payments – will get $300 rebates per person or $600 per couple.

The stimulus allows for a 5% phaseout rate for households above the income caps of $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers. The rebates of those taxpayers will be reduced by the amount of income above the cap multiplied by 5%.

Will I have to pay it pack?

No. And here’s why.

Your stimulus payment is a one-time tax cut – an advance on a credit you’ll receive on your 2008 return. You will not owe tax on your payment when you file your 2008 tax return, and it will not increase the amount you owe or reduce your 2008 refund.

The stimulus payment is based on your 2007 income initially. If it turns out that your 2008 income and number of children would have qualified you for a larger rebate than the one you received, you’ll be sent the difference. If it turns out your 2008 income was lower than in 2007 and you should have gotten a lower rebate, you get to keep the difference.

“If you were supposed to receive a larger payment than you did, you will get the extra money,” said Treasury spokesman Andrew DeSouza. “If you received more than what you should have gotten, you will not be penalized.”

Direct deposit payment
If last 2 digits of your SS# are: Your rebate should be sent by:
00-20 May 2
21-75 May 9
76-99 May 16
Paper check
If last 2 digits of your SS# are: Your rebate should be sent by:
00-09 May 16
10-18 May 23
19-25 May 30
26-38 June 6
39-51 June 13
52-63 June 20
64-75 June 27
76-87 July 4
88-99 July 11

Poll says predictions for short-term progress grimmest in nearly 50 years

WASHINGTON – Growing numbers of middle-class Americans say they are not better off than they were five years ago, reflecting economic pressures amid growing debt, a study released Wednesday shows. Their short-term assessments of personal progress, according to the study, is the worst it has been in almost half a century.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based research organization, paints a mixed picture for the 53 percent of adults in the country who define themselves as “middle class,” with household incomes ranging from below $40,000 to more than $100,000.

It found that a majority of Americans said they have not progressed in the past five years. One in four, or 25 percent, said their economic situation had not improved, while 31 percent said they had fallen backward. Those numbers together are the highest since the survey question was first asked in 1964. Among the middle class, 54 percent said they had made no progress (26 percent) or fallen back (28 percent).

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Middle-class prosperity also lagged compared with richer Americans. From 1983 to 2004, the median net worth of upper-income families — defined as households with annual incomes above 150 percent of the median — grew by 123 percent, while the median net worth of middle-income families rose by just 29 percent.

232,000 US jobs have vanished since January, Senior Economist at Economic Policy Institute says, “most people depend on their paychecks.”

Published: April 5, 2008:

“The nation’s employers eliminated tens of thousands of jobs for the third month in a row, the government reported Friday, and top Democrats immediately called for new measures to help suffering American workers. After the early-morning report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 80,000 jobs had disappeared in March, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said she would propose a second economic stimulus package. Hers would supplement the $150 billion in tax rebates scheduled to be mailed to millions of Americans beginning next month.”…

…”

The March decline was the largest job loss since March 2003 when the economy was still shaking off the lingering effects of the 2001 recession. Since the start of the year, 232,000 jobs have disappeared, the bureau said yesterday.

More than once in the past, three consecutive months of job losses have marked the start of a recession. “It is our view that we are already in one,” said Drew Matus, a Lehman Brothers economist, offering a view widely held on Wall Street.”…

…”

Unemployment rose in every sector of the work force, except among teenagers. Hourly wage gains slowed for production workers, who constitute 80 percent of the work force. The 5-cent rise last month brought the average wage to $17.86 an hour, an increase of 3.6 percent since the previous March, not enough to keep up with inflation.

“You can talk all you want about the importance of stock portfolios and the wealth embedded in your home,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute, “but when you get right down to it, most people depend on their paychecks.”…