WEEK ONE HUNDRED & THIRTY-FIVE

August 14, 2011     President Obama's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low, sinking below 40 percent for the first time in Gallup's daily tracking poll:

  • Data shows that 39% of Americans approve of Obama's job performance, while 54 percent disapprove--Obama's approval rating has hovered in the 40 percent range for much of 2011, peaking at 53 percent in the weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden.

August 15, 2011

1.     President Obama kicked off a three-day Midwest bus trip, criticizing his Republican opponents for partisan "games" that he said were dampening the economy:

  • The bus trip comes as polls find the American public increasingtly worried about the stalled economy and weak job market, but Obama said that the biggest stumbling block to recovery was partisanship in Washington--though the White House said that the trip was official business since the president will announce new jobs initiatives August 16th at a White House Rural Economic Forum in Iowa, the Republican National Committee, seeking to raise money for its 2012 campaign, dubbed the trip, Obama's "Taxpayer Funded Debt-End Tour" and solicited contributions.

2.     The Dow Jones industrial average notched a three-day winning streak for the first time in six weeks as a $19 billion corporate buying spree and encouraging economic news from Japan sent the Dow up 213 points and erased its losses from last week:

  • The return of what's called "Merger Monday" on Wall Street made investors more optimistic about the future, as did a report that Japan's economy shrunk less than feared after the earthquake and tsunami there on March 11th--that helped ease worries that the U.S. economy may slide into another recession. 

August 16, 2011

1.     After pledging to send a job creation paackage to Congress next month and daring Republicans to block it, President Obama offered few specifics about the form the plan might take as he stuck to a broad outline of how to improve the economy:

  • The president continued to hammer away at Republicans in Congress, suggesting that they stand in the way of economic growth, even as some Democrats expressed discomfort with what they saw as a potentially divisive ultimatum from the president--Republicans pushed back by escalating their criticism of Obama's trip, calling it nothing more than a glorified campaign swing at taxpayers' expense. 

2.     Fitch Ratings reaffirmed its AAA credit rating for the U.S. and said that it did not anticipate a downgrade in the near future:

  •  The firm, one of the three major credit rating companies, said that the outlook for the U.S.' rating was stable because the recent deal to raise the debt ceiling and cut the budget deficit showed the nation's political leaders could do what's necessary to reduce the nation's soaring debt--Moody's Investor Services, like Fitch, retained its AAA rating for the U.S. this month but changed its outlook to negative, meaning there is a risk of a downgrade.

August 17, 2011     President Obama will seek to set Washington's agenda in September by calling for new efforts to spur job growth and even deeper cuts in future federal budget deficits than called for in the widely panned deal he struck last month with lawmakers:

  •  Speaking at a townhall-style meeting in Illinois, his home state, Obama said that he will continue to press for new tax revenue as he asks congressional negotiators to go beyond the $1.5 trillion in future deficit reductions that a special bipartisan joint congressional committee is charged with identifying--a senior administration official said that the jobs package is likely to include a mix of tax cuts, construction projects to put the unemployed back to work, and measures targeting the long-term unemployed.

August 18, 2011

1.     In a choreographed diplomatic squeeze play, President Obama; the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany; and the European Union joined to demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad resign, saying his brutal suppression of his people had made him unfit to lead:

  •  The coordinated messages from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, and Brussels were accompanied by a U.N. recommendation that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation of atrocities and by tough new U.S. sanctions freezing all Syrian government assets in the U.S., and by targeting the country's lucrative energy sector--the resignation calls were the first explicit demands from the U.S. and its allies for Assad to step down, although condemnation of his actions had been mounting for weeks.

2.     More expensive gas, food, clothes, and other necessities are squeezing consumers who are already struggling with stagnant pay and worried about a weak economy:

  •  Still, economists say that they do not expect inflation to rise much further, and many forecast that it will peak sometime this year--economists expect core prices will likely continue to rise this year, then fall back next year.

3.     The New York Times reports that the Justice Department is investigating whether S&P's credit ratings agency improperly rated dozens of mortgage securites in the years leading up to the financial crisis:

  •  The newspaper says that the investigation began before S&P's cut the U.S.' AAA credit rating this month, but says it's likely to add to the political firestorm created by the downgrade.

4.     The Obama administration announced that it would suspend deportation proceedings against many illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security and public safety:

  •  White House and immigration officials said that they would exercise "prosecutorial discretion" to focus efforts on cases involving criminals and people who have flagrantly violated immigration law--the new policy, according to the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, can provide relief on a case-by-case basis to young people who are in the country illegally but pose no threat to national security or public safety.

5.     Vice President Joe Biden praised China's rapid economic ascent, while his Chinese counterpart, Vice President Xi Jinping, emphasized cooperation between China and the U.S., as the two leaders participated in discussions on the global economy and trade and currency issues:

  •  Biden arrived at the Great Hall of the People, on the west side of Tiananmen Square, accompanied by Jinping, and the men exchanged opening remarks--Biden arrived in China for a four-day visit to Beijing and the southwestern city of Chengdu.

6.     After just a few days of calm, stocks declined steeply in a worldwide sell-off, a downturn driven by fresh concerns that the global economy is slowing and that Europe's debt crisis is putting strain on the financial sector:

  •  After declines in Asian and European markets, stocks in the U.S. opened sharply lower and continued to slide, and the Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 420 points--financial stocks were down more than five percent as were stocks in other crucial sectors such as energy, materials, and industrials.

August 19, 2011

1.     White House budget chief Jacob Lew has ordered agency heads to submit spending plans for the upcoming budget at least five percent below this year's levels, and he also wants them to propose ways to trim a total of at least ten percent from their spending:

  •  The Obama administration has asked agencies in years past to propose similar savings, but Lew's order comes just two weeks after Obama and congressional Republicans ended an epic debt-ceiling battle that has left both sides eager to demonstrate a willingness to trim red ink ahead of a fierce autumn battle over the economy and the debt and just as the 2012 presidential and congressional elections approach--by requesting two sets of potential savings from agencies, Lew is moving toward fulfilling the debt-ceiling deal.

2.     Another tumultuous week on Wall Street ended with two days of falling stock prices as investors appeared to be positioning for a recession:

  •  The Dow Jones industrial average fell 172 points, enough to wipe out all the gains notched earlier in the week--the drop came despite the fact that the day brought little new information about where the economy is heading, but the previous few days provided enough bad news about European banks and U.S. manufacturing to push investors into a defensive posture.

3.     Investors flocked to gold, sending it to the latest in a series of records as fears about recession in the world's major economies infected financial markets:

  •  The metal soared as high as $1881.40 an ounce, settling at $1,852.20 an ounce for December delivery--as an investment, the metal has climbed because of investors' concern about the state of the global economy, diving stock markets, and moves by central banks around the world to weaken their currencies.

August 20, 2011     A vacationing President Obama is being kept up to date by aides on developments in Libya, and U.S. officials are in touch with their contacts in that country to determine the progress of rebel troops advancing on Libya's capitol, Tripoli:

  • A senior administration official said that the president was briefed during the day on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and would continue to get regular updates, including through the night if necessary--a second senior official said that the administration was in close contact with the Libyan opposition and U.S. allies and partners and believes that Moammar Gadhafi's days in power are numbered.
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