November 27, 2009

A brief history of Black Friday

Posted: 05:45 PM ET

By Dan Fletcher


Here's hoping you avoided the food coma: you'll need your wits about you for Black Friday. The traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza has become a full-contact sport, with crazed shoppers determined to find the best deals, sometimes with tragic results. In last year's frenzy, a worker at a New York Walmart was trampled to death when the store opened its doors; two shoppers were shot in a dispute at a Toys "R" Us in California. The ensuing safety concerns may have prompted some shoppers to think twice, but retailers still expect a bonanza: the weekend after Thanksgiving is expected to account for some $40 billion in sales.

As early as the 19th century, shoppers have viewed Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, an occasion marked by celebrations and sales. Department stores in particular locked onto this marketing notion, hosting parades to launch the start of the first wave of Christmas advertisements, chief among them, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, running in New York City since 1924. The holiday spree became so important to retailers that during the Great Depression, they appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving up in order to stretch out the holiday shopping season. Roosevelt obliged, moving Thanksgiving one week earlier, but didn't announce the change until October. As a result, Americans had two Thanksgivings that year — Roosevelt's, derisively dubbed "Franksgiving," and the original. Because the switchover was handled so poorly, few observed it, and the change resulted in little economic boost.

The term Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices. Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season's biggest shopping day each year except 2004, according to market-research firm ShopperTrak.

(Read more…)

Filed under: Economy

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July 26, 2009

What You Might Not Know About the Recovery

Posted: 12:38 PM ET

By JOE BIDEN via New York Times

artbidengi1SIX months ago, when President Obama and I took office, we were confronted with an economic crisis unparalleled in our lifetime. The nation was hemorrhaging more than 700,000 jobs a month, the housing market was in free fall, and the fate of the financial system hung in the balance. Credible economists were handicapping the probability of a depression. The actions we took — passing the Recovery Act, stabilizing the banking system, pressing to get credit flowing again and helping responsible homeowners — brought us back from the precipice. Monthly job losses are down, financial markets are improved, and economic contraction has slowed. We still have a long way to go, but clearly we are closer to recovery today than we were in January. The Recovery Act has been critical to that progress.

Notwithstanding this progress, the nature of the Recovery Act remains misunderstood by many, and misconstrued by others: critics have suggested that the entire $787 billion is being spent on pet programs. As the person leading the administration’s efforts to put the Recovery Act into effect, I want to set the record straight.

The single largest part of the Recovery Act — more than one-third of it — is tax cuts: 95 percent of working Americans have seen their taxes go down as a result of the act. The second-largest part — just under a third — is direct relief to state governments and individuals. The money is allowing state governments to avoid laying off teachers (14,000 in New York City alone), firefighters and police officers and preventing states’ budget gaps from growing wider.

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live • Politics • President Obama

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June 23, 2009

Confidence in Stimulus Plan Ebbs, Poll Finds

Posted: 04:08 AM ET

By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

art.obama.ahead.giBarely half of Americans are now confident that President Obama's $787 billion stimulus measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism about the state of the nation that followed the 2008 election has abated, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, 52 percent now say the stimulus package has succeeded or will succeed in restoring the economy, compared with 59 percent two months ago. The falloff in confidence has been sharpest in the hard-hit Midwest, where fewer than half now see the government spending as succeeding. In April, six in 10 Midwesterners said the federal program had worked or would do so.

The tempered public outlook has not significantly affected Obama's overall approval rating, which at 65 percent in the new survey outpaces the ratings of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at similar points in their tenures. But new questions about the stimulus package's effectiveness underscore the stakes for the Obama administration in the months ahead as it pushes for big reforms in health care and energy at the same time it attempts to revive the nation's flagging economy.

Obama maintains leverage on these issues in part because of the continuing weakness of his opposition. The survey found the favorability ratings of congressional Republicans at their lowest point in more than a decade. Obama also has significant advantages over GOP lawmakers in terms of public trust on dealing with the economy, health care, the deficit and the threat of terrorism, despite broad-based Republican criticism of his early actions on these fronts.

With unemployment projected to continue rising and fears that the big run-up in stock prices since February may have been a temporary trend, fixing the economy remains the most critical issue of Obama's presidency - and retaining public confidence in his policies is an important element of his recovery strategy.

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live • Politics • President Obama

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June 4, 2009

Karl Rove: It's the economy, stupid...

Posted: 10:14 AM ET

By Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush

Tomorrow will likely bring more bad news for President Barack Obama on the number one issue for voters - the economy. The Labor Department's monthly job report will almost certainly show unemployment topping 9%, with a couple hundred thousand more jobs lost in May.

It will get worse before jobs get better. Congressional Budget Director Douglas W. Elmendorf recently predicted that unemployment will continue rising into the second half of next year and peak above 10%.

Mr. Obama has an ingenious approach to job losses: He describes them as job gains. For example, last week the president claimed that 150,000 jobs had been created or saved because of his stimulus package. He boasted, "And that's just the beginning." However, at the beginning of January, 134.3 million people were employed. At the start of May, 132.4 million Americans were working. How was Mr. Obama magically able to conjure this loss of 1.9 million jobs into an increase of 150,000 jobs?

As my former White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto points out on his blog, the Labor Department does not and cannot collect data on "jobs saved." So the Obama administration is asking that we accept its "clairvoyant ability to estimate," and the White House press corps has let Mr. Obama's ludicrous claim go virtually unchallenged.

Read MORE of Rove's commentary from the Wall Street Journal

Filed under: Economy • Karl Rove • Politics

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June 1, 2009

Krugman: Blame Reagan for the economic problems

Posted: 09:39 AM ET

By NY Times' columnist Paul Krugman:

“This bill is the most important legislation for financial institutions in the last 50 years. It provides a long-term solution for troubled thrift institutions. ... All in all, I think we hit the jackpot.” So declared Ronald Reagan in 1982, as he signed the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act.

He was, as it happened, wrong about solving the problems of the thrifts. On the contrary, the bill turned the modest-sized troubles of savings-and-loan institutions into an utter catastrophe. But he was right about the legislation’s significance. And as for that jackpot — well, it finally came more than 25 years later, in the form of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

For the more one looks into the origins of the current disaster, the clearer it becomes that the key wrong turn — the turn that made crisis inevitable — took place in the early 1980s, during the Reagan years.  Attacks on Reaganomics usually focus on rising inequality and fiscal irresponsibility. Indeed, Reagan ushered in an era in which a small minority grew vastly rich, while working families saw only meager gains. He also broke with longstanding rules of fiscal prudence.

READ MORE from the NY Times

Filed under: Economy • Paul Krugman

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May 5, 2009

Opinion: Limbaugh's living large while radio boss Clear Channel implodes

Posted: 11:56 PM ET

By Eric Boehlert/Media Matters

Clear Channel's fall from business grace remains epic in its proportions. In 10 years time the company has gone from dominating a flourishing radio industry to a corporation that now teeters on the brink. (Clear Channel stock traded for $90 a share in 2000. artrushobamagiWhen the radio company went private last year, pre-crash, the stock was already down in the $30s.) Lots of over-extended, debt-ridden media conglomerates are struggling through today's deep economic recession, but few face a future quite as perilous as the one staring back at the San Antonio radio giant.

And yet Clear Channel's most famous employee, Rush Limbaugh, remains oblivious to it all. I sometimes wonder what Limbaugh thinks when he reads about the not-so-slow-motion collapse of his radio employer while lounging in his 24,000-square-foot Florida estate or motoring in his $450,000 car to the airport to ride in his $54 million jet. Does Limbaugh feel bad? Does he feel a little guilty? And does he ever think about giving some of his riches back so that thousands of radio colleagues wouldn't have to be bounced to the curb?

And I wonder what those pink-slipped Clear Channel employees - some of whom spent decades working for the company - think about Limbaugh as they're ordered out the station door and onto "the beach." (That's radio-speak for unemployment.)

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live • Rush Limbaugh

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May 4, 2009

The female advantage: it's more profitable

Posted: 01:11 AM ET

By Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow/Boston Globe

...A growing number of consultants and corporate leaders swear by a new strategy to boost the bottom line, one that departs from the standard bag of tricks: put more women in charge.

Several studies have linked greater gender diversity in senior posts with financial success. European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent, according to a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians, a 2001 Pepperdine University study showed. And, just recently, a French business professor found that the share prices of companies with more female managers declined less than average on the French stock market in 2008.

This mounting body of evidence represents an important twist in the debate over women in business. For decades, women's advancement has been seen as an issue of fairness and equality. Now some researchers are saying it should also be seen in another way: as a smart way to make money.

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live

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April 14, 2009

Yay for America (unless we have to pay for it)

Posted: 03:14 AM ET

By Howard Troxler

If you are rushing to get your taxes filed by Wednesday, just be aware that it's Wyoming's fault.

In 1913, Wyoming cast the deciding vote to ratify the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, authorizing a federal income tax.

There had been an income tax off and on as early as the Civil War, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. This led to the 16th Amendment.

The new tax was for 1 percent on annual incomes of more than $3,000 a year, and a whopping 6 percent on incomes above $500,000, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Now, I have never heard anyone say, "I like paying taxes, and wish that they were higher."

But to a certain extent, I do like paying my taxes, whether federal, state or local, and here's why: I do not mind paying for the right stuff.

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live • Politics

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April 10, 2009

Welcome to the he-cession

Posted: 06:06 AM ET


As male jobs are slashed, women are becoming the breadwinners while men hold down the fort at home

Canadian men had better get used to doing more cooking and cleaning, because the women are bringing home the bacon now.

While the recession, dubbed the he-cession, continues to slash male jobs – more than 27,000 of them in March alone – it has mostly spared women, whose unemployment rate has hardly budged.

That's meant a domestic rearrangement for many Canadian households, as newly stuck-at-home husbands kiss their working wives goodbye each morning.

“It's great to come home and smell dinner,” says Julie Renaud, 33, whose husband, Ryan, was laid off from the Ford plant in Windsor about a year ago and has now taken over most of the household chores – except, she laughs, loud enough so he can hear – scrubbing the toilet.

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live

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Opinion: Obama has short memory

Posted: 12:49 AM ET

By John Bruns

For the last two years of the Bush administration the Democrats were in charge of both houses of Congress and they increased spending every year and blocked all attempts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that most people agree is the genesis for the current economic problems.artobamamondaygi

So for the last four years President Obama has known, or should have known, what he was voting on, and if he was opposed, should have expressed that.

The only thing that I remember him being opposed to was the Iraq war and he commented the other day that he was surprised how that appears to be "the least of the problems."

Those of us who can remember farther back than Jan. 20, 2009, can also recall that when President Bush came to Washington from Texas there were a number of economic problems.

As I remember, unemployment was about 7 percent and we were still in the midst of the dot-com bubble burst, Enron, etc.

He also inherited 19 terrorists that were in the country courtesy of a Clinton administration policy known as "visa express." We all know what they caused!

(Read More)

Filed under: Economy • Larry King Live • Politics • President Obama

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