Wednesday 25 April 2018

Obama calls for US fight back to beat downturn

Jon Swaine in Washington

President Barack Obama had a stark and simple message for Americans battling recession and austerity in a pointedly sober Thanksgiving address.

President Obama stressed his belief that the nation has the ability to overcome its challenges declaring: "I know that for many of you, this Thanksgiving is more difficult than most. But no matter how tough things are right now, we still give thanks for that most American of blessings, the chance to determine our own destiny," Mr Obama said in a taped Thanksgiving message.

The president said that the nation's problems can be solved despite partisanship in Washington. "The problems we face didn't develop overnight, and we won't solve them overnight," he said. "But we will solve them. All it takes is for each of us to do our part."

President Obama encouraged Americans to remember the men and women in the military who are spending the holiday serving their country overseas. And he thanked those who were taking time out of their Thanksgiving celebrations to serve in soup kitchens and shelters.

"This sense of mutual responsibility -- the idea that I am my brother's keeper, that I am my sister's keeper -- has always been a part of what makes our country special," he said.

Meanwhile, today is being billed more than ever as the most important day of the year for the US economy, a carnival of consumerism in which Americans are expected to shop their way out of financial woe.

Some 152 million people -- almost half the population -- are due to pass through checkouts carrying heavily discounted products, spending upwards of $50bn (€37bn) in the post-Thanksgiving sales, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally marked the moment retailers moved into profit, or "the black".

Latterly it has been when consumers queued for hours in the cold to dash around shops, fighting over the latest half-price LCD widescreen televisions.

But amid the highest poverty rate for 28 years, sluggish economic growth and a headline unemployment rate of 9pc that still grossly under-represents the painful extent of joblessness around the country, some Americans say they have had enough.

The disgruntlement has coincided with the rise of the anti-capitalist Occupy protest movement, which has launched its own campaign. Occupy Black Friday is aiming to persuade people to shop locally to support their communities, rather than multinational conglomerates.

Another, Occupy Wal-Mart, is turning its focus on one huge outlet. "Black Friday is the one day where the mega-corporations blatantly dictate our actions, they say 'shop' and we shop," the group said in a statement.

Some analysts stress, however, that the economy is too fragile to encourage anything less than a spending binge. Adam Davidson, of National Public Radio's Planet Money, describes Black Friday as a "one-day economic stimulus plan and job-creation programme" that is crucial to the American economy. "Billions of dollars, which would otherwise never be spent, make their way into circulation," he wrote in an article. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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