Thanks to Barack Obama, "It's OK To Go Shopping Again"

The Republicans in Congress may be singularly focused on destroying the American economy in order to hurt President Obama's chances of re-election, but the American consumer may already be responding to President Obama's relentless focus on helping the middle class be able to spend again, in order to get our economy going. After all, consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of America's economic activity. So as the holiday shopping season kicked off this past weekend, trends are pointing to economic expansion rather than doom.

A short summary of the Black Friday weekend:
  • Consumers spent $52.4 billion from last Thursday to Sunday, up 16% from $45 billion last year.
  • The number of shoppers were up, to 227 million from 212 million last year.
  • Average spending also climbed to $398.62 from $365.62 the year prior.
The uptick in consumer comfort with spending didn't stop with the end of the weekend, either. November sales for most retailers are beating Wall Street expectations.
Several retailers including Macy's Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Limited Brands Inc. and teen retailer Buckle Inc. reported sales gains Thursday that beat Wall Street estimates. [...]

Discount-club operator Costco's revenue at stores open at least a year increased 9 percent in November, thanks to strong performances in the U.S. and overseas. The figure easily beat Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the metric would climb 6.5 percent.

Department-store chain Macy's posted a 4.8 percent gain, above the 3.9 percent increase that Wall Street analysts had expected.
Consumers aren't just spending on retail small-ticket items. A pleasant surprise came in November, with car sales up unexpectedly.
"Chrysler, Ford, Nissan and Hyundai were among the companies reporting double-digit gains from the year-ago November, which is normally a lackluster month because of colder weather and holiday distractions. This November, buyers were lured by good deals, improving confidence in the economy and the need to trade in older cars.

Consumers are just starting to say 'It's time to start spending money again,' " said Larry Dominique, executive vice president of data for automotive website TrueCar.com.

An early blitz of holiday advertising helped convince some people that it was a good time to buy. Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president for U.S. sales, says dealers saw the same rise in sales that other merchants did on Black Friday and the Saturday after Thanksgiving
Wait, wait. Crysler? Ford? American auto makers posting double digit gains? How about them apples, Mr. Mitt "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" Romney?

So this is a season in which more consumers are spending more money. On department store items and on big ticket consumer items like new cars. Yes, some of it is due to the fact that consumers held back in the previous years. But a lot of it is due to an economy that is moving in the right direction despite GOP efforts to the contrary due to the President's efforts to do everything he can to put Americans back to work. It's not an accident that Americans are deciding that it's ok to go shopping again.

If you are asking what the President's policies have to do with this, let's look at a few things. President Obama, over unprecedented opposition and obstruction from the Republicans (and some Democrats), has insisted that the middle class and the working poor be given a lifeline through the economic nightmare that we have lived through thanks to the policies of the far Right. Let's look at some of this:

  • Health Reform: President Obama ensured that young adults who are just entering the job market in a job that does not offer affordable health care don't have to be victims of the individual insurance market by making them eligible to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26. The high risk pools are helping other Americans save money on medical care, as is the no-copay preventive care provision of health reform.
  • Student Loan Reform: Barack Obama cut the banks out of the federal student loan process and used that money to expand assistance to students so they have to worry less about mounting loans, while making federal student loan payments affordable.
  • Economic Stimulus: The President's economic stimulus in 2009 was designed both to give a boost to infrastructure as well as to save the jobs of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other essential public employees. As long as it lasted and before Republican governors came in this year to decimate the jobs of public employees, including teachers, the stimulus kept people who would have otherwise been unemployed working.
  • Unemployment Benefits: Obama insisted that unemployment benefits be extended - even when the so-called Left excoriated him for extending the Bush tax cuts for two years as a legislative price for that as a lifeline for Americans out of work.
  • Tax relief targeted to working class: He provided the working class with a Make Work Pay tax credit and then a payroll tax cut so that those who most need the help got it, even if the price was that the ultra rich got a few percentage points in their tax cuts for a couple more years.

All of these things kept severe economic hardships from becoming complete economic devastation. Without economic stimulus, extended unemployment benefits and the president's targeted tax cuts for the working poor and the working class, today's consumer spending upturn would quite likely have been impossible as our economy would have been mired in long-term depression. Barack Obama provided the safety net that was absolutely essential for people to build back their lives. And now seems to be that point where people are getting more comfortable that the worst might be behind us.

But you see, if Congress does not extend and expand the payroll tax cut as the President has demanded, the average American family will have $1,000 less to spend next year. If they do go along with the president's demand, the average family will have $1,500 more to  spend. The Republicans are worried. Settle down, settle down. They are not worried because taxes will go up on the American people if they don't act. They are worried that President Obama has been winning the messaging battle on jobs. And they are right.

With that uptick in consumer spending and economic activity, the Republican hopes of beating President Obama next year is fading fast. As people are getting more comfortable with spending more money, they also seem to be warming up to the fact that President Obama's policies have kept this economy, ruined by corporate greed, afloat until people can get their financial houses in order to start spending again. A Pew Research poll a couple of weeks ago put the President's approval rating at 46%, improved from previous polling. His favorability was at 52%, a net positive, while all of the GOP candidates were in net negative favorable territory with the American voters.

That is not an accident. Over the past year, Americans have seen who has fought to be on their side, and who has worked for the uber rich. They have seen Republican governors and legislators try to set up hard working people struggling to keep their jobs as the problem for asking for an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. We can be a fickle people, we Americans. But the Republicans have shown themselves captive to an ideological extreme while President Obama has proven to be a warrior for the working class who is willing to compromise to move things forward and help those who need help the most. That is why the President's popularity is slowly going up as the Tea Party has come to a crashing halt.