At a Town Hall meeting with President Obama today, a woman stood up said, "I'm one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I'm exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?" Maybe we shouldn't have skipped lunch, but hot dogs and beans sound like a pretty delicious reality right now. Watch the video clip below:
With the midterm elections looming, Obama is working the proverbial room trying to convince the electorate that he's succeeded in improving things for the middle class. In response to her question, the president pointed to changes made to student loan programs, laws affecting the credit card companies, and mortgage brokers. His happy talk comes coincides with a new report from The National Bureau of Economic Research, which concludes that "a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion."
Stocks closed at their highest level in more than four months today as the news broke, and analysts say the stock market also reacted positively to the "strengthening signals" that Republicans would regain control of the House of Representatives in November's midterm elections. "Wall Street tends to love divided government," Robert Phipps, a director at Per Stirling Capital Management, tells the Wall Street Journal. "The market is starting to price in the likelihood of a change of power in the House."
A recession is generally defined as a period in which economic growth falls for at least two quarters; the Great Recession of 2007-2009 officially lasted 18 months and was the longest since the 11-year depression of the 1930s. This NBER report means that any future downturn in the economy would be considered a new recession—the dreaded "double dip" recession. But whatever you want to call it, job growth in or out of recession is currently an anemic 1.6%, and the official national unemployment rate is 9.6%—but some experts say it's more like 16% because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't include those who have given up looking for work.