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Old 11-23-2008, 11:09 PM   #31
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It's the one area that economists don't want people to do but if you are hanging by a thread to pay off your debts it's not wise to take on more because Keynesians think you should. Krugman has made it explicit that he doesn't like the current trend for Americans to retrench. He's the Nobel Prize economist and all the rank and file economists are copying him and telling politicians to do it. I don't think it's good advice for people teetering on bankruptcy and people uncertain about their future employment status.

If the central banks raised interest rates during the MASSIVE boom people wouldn't have got into so much debt. The business cycle yo yo's too much when they let the printing presses go. Then you get socialist teachers like my Marxist teacher who looks at this period of time as the best time so that they can grow larger during a recession. He really meant it when he said it.

Protect your ass. The savings rate in the West has been too low for too long. It's hard to save for retirement. I'm narrowing the discussion to savings to highlight an area that desperately needs highlighting. Don't save to the point of starving but as we saw in the last 15 years people were making the opposite error. For those who don't have a lot of debt it doesn't apply as much to them. Savings in the economy is often not understood well because of the counter-intuitive nature of it. Certainly I'm for low interest rates during a recession but not all the time and even through a normal economy. It leads to speculation and consumer debt. Banks even send poor people credit lines of $100,000. It's like normal bankers have turned into loan sharks.
That's all well and good, but you cannot expect a government to go forcing people's hands to start saving. Certainly there has to be a concerted effort by people to save as opposed to spend, but that's a separate issue. We're discussing here what Obama's plan is, and how the government can try to help out. Yes, there's limits to what Obama can do, but to say that, as an alternative to Obama's plan, there needs to be more spending just doesn't make sense, because it's a separate issue. You're talking about having people change their attitudes, which is different than government policy.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:19 PM   #32
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I was raised by people who didn't buy anything if they didn't have enough cash to cover it, the house being the sole exception. Vacations, cars, home renovations, all personal property was purchased for cash or on a credit card that was paid off immediately. My brother and I do that too, but it's not possible to the same extent.

My education (2 degrees) has cost me just about $100K. My brother also got two degrees, although his were cheaper, I think he got away with maybe $60K so he managed to graduate with no debt, as a result of a combination of working and my parents helping him. I couldn't escape without $20K of debt, which I actually consider to be excellent given that I didn't come from a wealthy family and I had no education savings plan unlike many of my friends, much less a trust fund. But in any event, it's difficult to start saving when you start life out in the hole.

I won't tell you how many people I know who went to law or med school and graduated with debt of $40 or $60K or worse. And it wasn't because they didn't save or their parents, they simply were not in an income bracket that could ever possibly afford this.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:35 PM   #33
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France, Germany, Spain. I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones I know. In Canada when we get 6% unemployment during a boom that's considered good. In the U.S. it's an alarm bell.

There's a saying in Germany. "If you have a job you are in a union and when you're not in a union you don't have a job." It's an exageration of course but it shows how long it takes to get a job in countries like that. They also have more trade barriers though hopefully that will loosen up after the G20 meeting. Hopefully.
The standard of living in Germany is lower than in the US? Sorry, but I tend to disagree. Having grown up in Germany, been around Germany, and having seen enough other countries and how it looks inside their houses, I cannot in any way share that conclusion.
Interesting saying we apparently have. I've never heard it, can't find it, and it's totally besides reality. A union can protect you from becoming unemployed. It can only very limitedly help you get employed. You don't need to be in a union to find employment.
Just some figures on the rate of unionization over time: 1960: 34,2%, 1980: 33,6%, 2000: 21,6%.
We have problems with long-term unemployment, that's right. And it's mainly due to structural change, regional problems (especially in East Germany) etc. Another problem of course is labor substitution or moving just east of Germany to countries we cannot compete in terms of wages. That's not to say that Germany has not serious problems with ancillary labor costs and the most complicated tax laws in the world. There we need some real reforms which I don't see with our current governments.
But unions nowadays are about the least problem we have. And they can hardly be blamed for the struggle of long-term unemployed people.

The problem of trade barriers with non-EU member states os something we unfortunately share with the US and Canada, and certainly one of the greatest injustices.

Overall, as far as I am aware the standard of living in the two other countries you just mentioned isn't that much different from the US or Canada. But it depends on what income groups you put your focus when determining that. You could make a case about eastern European countries for sure, and definitely about south Italy. But that's about it.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:35 PM   #34
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You simplify the issue, and admit so in this post. It's anything but simple.

I don't understand why programs to fix schools and infrastructure is a bad thing. You dismiss jobs from the equation entirely just because it's not the only problem, which does not make sense. It is not the only problem, but it is part of the problem.

This is a multi-faceted issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. Job creation through government work programs that improve our public facilities is not an inherently bad idea, if executed properly. It can help, if done right.
Actually that post you used is talking about the fact that we already have social programs but everyone wants to increase them more. These programs for unemployment insurance, welfare and the food bank were supposed to wipe out poverty a couple of decades ago but didn't because people's choices are still important. I'm not against the government feeding people when they are out of food but it's a band aid. Even if done right as you say we still need the majority of the economy to revive and more taxes in the direction of make work programs leaves less wiggle room for average savers. If a school is in bad shape we should do something about that but No child left behind, and healthcare entitlements ate up much of the tax revenue and into a deficit. Can the U.S. continue to add to the debt? Obama would have to do more than quickly end the war to solve that problem. He will have to go into more deficit or increase taxes. I prefer cuts to social spending because there's always fat to be found there.

The government wants to do more than basic services and increase in size. In Canada we have more social programs and we still have people demanding poverty to disappear. I thought the 40% of the GDP in the hands of the government was doing that. I guess not. So the next question is how much is enough government? Taxes can only go so high before no one has the incentive to work. There has to be people paying for Obama's programs and not using them for the program to exist unless we let the printing presses go into overdrive but that would be a disaster. I don't think Obama is that far left to do that.

I mean if you get 10,000 from the government and I get 10,000 but you pay off some of your debt and I snort cocaine the social program is only as good as the person who uses it. That's why poverty is never erradicated. Yet social workers keep talking about those same solutions like it's a panacea in our country. The auto workers are getting a bailout in Canada and social workers started staging press conferences to mention "If auto companies get tax payer dollars why can't we get money for eliminating child poverty?" It's a moral hazard. Companies and lobbyists are lining up. There has to be a line drawn.

What Obama is doing is targeted (hopefully) and the main economy will still have to go through the natural recession to realign workers to the right areas. In the mean time if the majority of the people increase their savings they will naturally have more of a spending confidence because their spending is reasonable to their take home pay. A recession is simply a movement of workers from unproductive businesses that existed because of cheap debt to productive businesses that do better. The time lag inbetween is a shot of unemployment.

It totally sucks but why keep interest rates so low for so long over the Clinton and Bush Administrations? It's because any small recession is a political hot potato (especially during an election) and each administration likes to lower interest rates during elections to pass the buck onto another administration. That's why all administrations like to tackle a recession in the first two years of their term, because the last 2 are for gearing up for the election.

At some point consumer debt is so high and their wages can't keep up to the payments and consumers can't spend anymore so all those companies that were producing as if the consumer can go forever have a whole bunch of extra inventory. Eg. American Cars, and houses where people bought them to flip and not to live in them. Now there's a surplus of cheaper housing, especially in the U.S. If the interest rates were a bit higher during the last boom a lot of speculators couldn't get enough money to blow on oil futures and houses for flipping. Most economists say that 4% interest most of the time is not too damaging to the economy or too inflationary. I'm sure there's some debate on the right interest rate but it's probably not too far from that.

I believe the middle class is shrinking because of the lack of savings this past generation. It's hard to be middle class when you lose your job which in turn can lead you to losing your house and car. You get bad credit so when you need to have some credit you are forced to use cash only. Debt as tool has been abused by government, individuals, and corporations.

I want Obama to talk about fiscal responsibility of the individual but that would be counter to the Krugman attitude that consumer savings is a problem so he talks about projects. By saying less he can stay popular and when the recession is over he can claim that the projects he did are the reason for the recovery just like they do with FDR and the Great Depression.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:44 PM   #35
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The standard of living in Germany is lower than in the US? Sorry, but I tend to disagree. Having grown up in Germany, been around Germany, and having seen enough other countries and how it looks inside their houses, I cannot in any way share that conclusion.
Interesting saying we apparently have. I've never heard it, can't find it, and it's totally besides reality. A union can protect you from becoming unemployed. It can only very limitedly help you get employed. You don't need to be in a union to find employment.
Just some figures on the rate of unionization over time: 1960: 34,2%, 1980: 33,6%, 2000: 21,6%.
We have problems with long-term unemployment, that's right. And it's mainly due to structural change, regional problems (especially in East Germany) etc. Another problem of course is labor substitution or moving just east of Germany to countries we cannot compete in terms of wages. That's not to say that Germany has not serious problems with ancillary labor costs and the most complicated tax laws in the world. There we need some real reforms which I don't see with our current governments.
But unions nowadays are about the least problem we have. And they can hardly be blamed for the struggle of long-term unemployed people.

The problem of trade barriers with non-EU member states os something we unfortunately share with the US and Canada, and certainly one of the greatest injustices.

Overall, as far as I am aware the standard of living in the two other countries you just mentioned isn't that much different from the US or Canada. But it depends on what income groups you put your focus when determining that. You could make a case about eastern European countries for sure, and definitely about south Italy. But that's about it.
I was focussing more on unemployment rates. I want Europe to do better and you're right about the trade side of things. The quote I mentioned was from the economist I read a long time ago so they could be full of shit for all I know. They supported Obama.

France has problems with the youth who are having trouble getting into the market in the first place, and that was during a boom. They usually have much higher unemployment than the U.S. Spain from the Almanac statistics at least for a few years I've seen usually has double digit unemployment which sucks. Most English people I talk to find the taxes burdening in the U.K.

Poland I know has high payroll taxes. I'm sure there are other structural problems from the former Soviet Union that still exists. I don't know what kind of property rights they have there.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:57 PM   #36
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I was raised by people who didn't buy anything if they didn't have enough cash to cover it, the house being the sole exception. Vacations, cars, home renovations, all personal property was purchased for cash or on a credit card that was paid off immediately. My brother and I do that too, but it's not possible to the same extent.

My education (2 degrees) has cost me just about $100K. My brother also got two degrees, although his were cheaper, I think he got away with maybe $60K so he managed to graduate with no debt, as a result of a combination of working and my parents helping him. I couldn't escape without $20K of debt, which I actually consider to be excellent given that I didn't come from a wealthy family and I had no education savings plan unlike many of my friends, much less a trust fund. But in any event, it's difficult to start saving when you start life out in the hole.

I won't tell you how many people I know who went to law or med school and graduated with debt of $40 or $60K or worse. And it wasn't because they didn't save or their parents, they simply were not in an income bracket that could ever possibly afford this.
Yes this is a problem if you're not a a frugal professional but Lawyers and Doctors can pay off those large loans so I don't worry so much about them because their savings is much faster than a person making 30K/year. I worry more about people who get Psychology, sociology degrees and degrees in stuff that doesn't supply a need in the market place. There's worse. There's even people on student loans taking recreational courses of little market value up until their 50's and look at dying with debt as a strategy.

I also think another problem that I don't think I mentioned is that there are large peer pressures in society to spend big and any control on spending is considered scrooge behaviour. Many couples break up because of that. That's why having a budget that couples can agree on together let's you keep tabs so you don't go over board. I also think that taking less expensive vacations near your home is a good idea to blow off steam. Having a cash budget is the secret to finding money to pay off debt. I feel for people who have to spend big on their clothes and car to maintain an image.

As a lawyer or doctor you have options to keep working into old age more than a coal miner or carpenter. Lots of work related injuries can put you out before you want to give up. All these examples I'm talking about show that being a tight wad when you're young benefits you greatly when you're 65 and you can choose to work or not as opposed to having to work.

There are others who are frugal that find extremely cheap ways to keep from being bored and like the peace of not having a huge house and expensive car and they seem to find money for retirement as well. I have no problem with that lifestyle in fact I'm starting to think that may be a good option. There's lots of assholes at my work that make fun of employees with small economical cars. They seem to take pleasure in their high salaries of being a boss and don't get that others need to make priorities.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:00 AM   #37
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I was raised by people who didn't buy anything if they didn't have enough cash to cover it, the house being the sole exception. Vacations, cars, home renovations, all personal property was purchased for cash or on a credit card that was paid off immediately. My brother and I do that too, but it's not possible to the same extent.

My education (2 degrees) has cost me just about $100K. My brother also got two degrees, although his were cheaper, I think he got away with maybe $60K so he managed to graduate with no debt, as a result of a combination of working and my parents helping him. I couldn't escape without $20K of debt, which I actually consider to be excellent given that I didn't come from a wealthy family and I had no education savings plan unlike many of my friends, much less a trust fund. But in any event, it's difficult to start saving when you start life out in the hole.

I won't tell you how many people I know who went to law or med school and graduated with debt of $40 or $60K or worse. And it wasn't because they didn't save or their parents, they simply were not in an income bracket that could ever possibly afford this.
Yes this is a problem if you're not a a frugal professional but Lawyers and Doctors can pay off those large loans so I don't worry so much about them because their savings is much faster than a person making 30K/year. I worry more about people who get Psychology, sociology degrees and degrees in stuff that doesn't supply a need in the market place. There's worse. There's even people on student loans taking recreational courses of little market value up until their 50's and look at dying with debt as a strategy.

I also think another problem that I don't think I mentioned is that there are large peer pressures in society to spend big and any control on spending is considered scrooge behaviour. Many couples break up because of that. That's why having a budget that couples can agree on together let's you keep tabs so you don't go over board. I also think that taking less expensive vacations near your home is a good idea to blow off steam. Having a cash budget is the secret to finding money to pay off debt. I feel for people who have to spend big on their clothes and car to maintain an image.

As a lawyer or doctor you have options to keep working into old age more than a coal miner or carpenter. Lots of work related injuries can put you out before you want to give up. All these examples I'm talking about show that being a tight wad when you're young benefits you greatly when you're 65 and you can choose to work or not as opposed to having to work.

There are others who are frugal that find extremely cheap ways to keep from being bored and like the peace of not having a huge house and expensive car and they seem to find money for retirement as well. I have no problem with that lifestyle in fact I'm starting to think that may be a good option. There's lots of assholes at my work that make fun of employees with small economical cars. They seem to take pleasure in their high salaries of being a boss and don't get that others need to make priorities.

I'm interested in the saving side of the economy because my Dad was an immigrant that never earned a large salary and had humiliating jobs but he stuck it out because he saw the opportunities in Canada that South American didn't have and through tough saving he's preparing for retirement so his actual example gave me more hope and showed concretely that if you prioritize you can have a better retirement than some spendthrift bosses.

Anyways cool conversations guys. I'm bloody tired. Good night!
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:02 AM   #38
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As a lawyer or doctor you have options to keep working into old age more than a coal miner or carpenter.
Dude, if you think I want to be 65 and working 80-90 hrs a week, you've got another thing coming. I'm here because it should let me retire early.

But it also comes down to priorities. You don't have to give everything up to be obsessively saving. I love travelling, it is really the only thing I do spend and have spent a lot of money on. But I got to see the world and learned a lot from it. At the same time I drive a 7 year old 2-door Honda Civic which I plan on keeping for at least another 3 years and that's technically way below my means. So everyone has to decide for themselves what's important to them and what's not.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:10 AM   #39
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I also think that taking less expensive vacations near your home is a good idea to blow off steam.
Thank goodness Ontario has pretty much damn near everything, if one likes nature, short of glaciers and deserts. I'd actually be able to live up to this, and not feel tremendously disappointed with my vacations!
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:19 AM   #40
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Actually that post you used is talking about the fact that we already have social programs but everyone wants to increase them more. These programs for unemployment insurance, welfare and the food bank were supposed to wipe out poverty a couple of decades ago but didn't because people's choices are still important. I'm not against the government feeding people when they are out of food but it's a band aid. Even if done right as you say we still need the majority of the economy to revive and more taxes in the direction of make work programs leaves less wiggle room for average savers. If a school is in bad shape we should do something about that but No child left behind, and healthcare entitlements ate up much of the tax revenue and into a deficit. Can the U.S. continue to add to the debt? Obama would have to do more than quickly end the war to solve that problem. He will have to go into more deficit or increase taxes. I prefer cuts to social spending because there's always fat to be found there.
I think the 500 lb. gorilla we've all been avoiding over the last few decades is that we just flat out don't have enough quality jobs to go around, particularly with rising populations. And how, entirely, is one supposed to be able to hedge their bets when it comes to figuring out a college degree? Most of them are worthless or have no inherent success built into them. Now trust me when I say that this kind of "hedging" figured into all of my education calculations when I was in school, but what am I supposed to do if, contrary to all my attempts otherwise, my entire education and career path became obsolete? Frankly, this kind of "obsolescence" has hit the working class over the last 30 years and hard.

I think if we want people to start saving on their crappy salaries, then we're going to start dealing with hard realities here. Pretty soon, if not already, it's going to be a matter of paying off debt and saving versus having children--and procreating will likely lose out, considering how tremendously expensive it is to have children and "save" for all those things that vastly outpace inflation like college education. I'm sure the "family values" crowd would just love for this to happen.

The more stark reality is that, considering these crappy salaries and the lack of credit now to make up for it, we're setting ourselves up for a troubling multi-year period of deflation. Now maybe we'll be able to patch the current system up enough to start the reckless credit spigot open again, but sooner or later, the credit will be maxed out, and we'll have to deal with the fact that an economy based on spending as much as humanly possible and paying people as little as humanly possible is going to fail and badly. Perhaps that's what we're experiencing right now.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:21 AM   #41
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I think that the capitalists should eat the poor, quite literally. There are too many poor, and removing them from the equation will help to revitalise the economy.
I think that's a modest proposal.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:42 AM   #42
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I was focussing more on unemployment rates. I want Europe to do better and you're right about the trade side of things. The quote I mentioned was from the economist I read a long time ago so they could be full of shit for all I know. They supported Obama.

France has problems with the youth who are having trouble getting into the market in the first place, and that was during a boom. They usually have much higher unemployment than the U.S. Spain from the Almanac statistics at least for a few years I've seen usually has double digit unemployment which sucks. Most English people I talk to find the taxes burdening in the U.K.

Poland I know has high payroll taxes. I'm sure there are other structural problems from the former Soviet Union that still exists. I don't know what kind of property rights they have there.
Sorry, should have been more clear in the wording. I was interested which countries have such a significantly lower standard of living.
Unemployment in many European countries are indeed not exactly promising. But each country is facing a multitude of problems and other factors leaving to their individual economic performance. Some is related, but most I would say is not. And it always takes a closer look to ascertain a country's specific situation.
Although we have the EU, this notion of Europe or European countries is just much too broad.

I don't think property rights in Poland are an issue. Those countries have pretty much adopted western European standards, and are now subject to EU legislation.
Poland, further, is a divided country, so to speak. The west profits in some respect from the opening and from the proximity to Germany and the rest of western Europe. The east part of the country often times has not changed that much from what it looked like pre-1990. It's similar to Italy, or to a lesser extent Belgium, where you have a prosperous north and a terrible south.

Maybe this saying exists, but it's probably a left-over from a time when unions were much stronger.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:19 AM   #43
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That's all well and good, but you cannot expect a government to go forcing people's hands to start saving. Certainly there has to be a concerted effort by people to save as opposed to spend, but that's a separate issue. We're discussing here what Obama's plan is, and how the government can try to help out. Yes, there's limits to what Obama can do, but to say that, as an alternative to Obama's plan, there needs to be more spending just doesn't make sense, because it's a separate issue. You're talking about having people change their attitudes, which is different than government policy.
Actually I'm talking about people changing their attitudes also because people are putting unrealistic expectations on Obama because of the shiny campaign.

I prefer the government finding ways to cut spening in government so they can believably reduce taxes so foreign investment and businesses come in instead of go out. I also was hoping Obama would continue with the Columbian trade deal but his meeting with Bush (if the media is to be trusted) showed that the deal will be nixed. At least the G20 agreed not to raise barriers for at least 12 months. A lot of jobs hinge on importing and exporting.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:24 AM   #44
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Sorry, should have been more clear in the wording. I was interested which countries have such a significantly lower standard of living.
Unemployment in many European countries are indeed not exactly promising. But each country is facing a multitude of problems and other factors leaving to their individual economic performance. Some is related, but most I would say is not. And it always takes a closer look to ascertain a country's specific situation.
Although we have the EU, this notion of Europe or European countries is just much too broad.

I don't think property rights in Poland are an issue. Those countries have pretty much adopted western European standards, and are now subject to EU legislation.
Poland, further, is a divided country, so to speak. The west profits in some respect from the opening and from the proximity to Germany and the rest of western Europe. The east part of the country often times has not changed that much from what it looked like pre-1990. It's similar to Italy, or to a lesser extent Belgium, where you have a prosperous north and a terrible south.

Maybe this saying exists, but it's probably a left-over from a time when unions were much stronger.
That's too bad. I was hoping that they could be like Ireland but they seem to be just better than Ukraine. Ukraine has a west east problem as well.

I'm totally against unions and I know management can be short sighted by the other extreme (like with Ford) is when the entitlements can actually reduce competitive abilities. Many union people who lost jobs in Molson's brewery had good wages but they didn't save much so they were particularly angry when the bottle operation shutdown. People aren't buying as much bottled beer as canned beer now.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:29 AM   #45
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Actually I'm talking about people changing their attitudes also because people are putting unrealistic expectations on Obama because of the shiny campaign.
Yes, there may be a few that are putting unrealistic expectations on Obama, but that happens with EVERY president. I think the majority of us are realistic, and that the right are the ones keeping up the "messiah" talk in order to find a way to discredit him when he accomplishes something by saying "well sure he did this, but he didn't save the world"...
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