World Economy

Americans Feel Financially Strained

Americans Feel  Financially StrainedAmericans Feel  Financially Strained

Despite a number of years of steady employment gains and stock market growth, many Americans are feeling financially strained and pessimistic about the nation's economic future. The latest NBC News online poll conducted by SurveyMonkey from Tuesday to Thursday shows that the country is divided on a number of economic issues–but somewhat united in negative feelings toward businesses and corporations.

The American dream–that if you work hard, you'll get ahead–does not hold true anymore for a majority of American voters anymore. Fifty-seven percent say the principle that hard work brings reward once held true, but no longer does, while 34% say the American dream still holds true. A much smaller number–just 9%–say the American dream never held true in the first place. While half of financially secure voters believe in the tenet that working hard yields prosperity, 84% of voters facing economic hardship say it no longer works, or never did.

A third of American voters indicate their family's financial situation is secure, saying they earn enough to save money and buy some extras. But nearly half–48%–say they are just making ends meet, only earning enough to pay their bills and obligations. And 17% express financial insecurity, saying they don't make enough to pay all their bills.

Split Unevenly

Asked about a list of economic issues facing the country, taxes and government spending were seen as the most important by 32% of voters, followed by the gap between the wealthy and everyone else at 20%. Not surprisingly, party identification separates Americans on these economic issues, even more so than one's financial status. A slim majority of Republican voters ranked taxes and government spending as the most important problem compared to a third of independent and about 1 in 8 Democratic voters.

Democratic voters were more divided on economic issues. The gap between the rich and everyone else was a top priority for 35%, but unemployment, stagnant wages, the cost of healthcare, and taxes were important to about 1 in 8 Democrats each.

While a number of Republican candidates talked about the regulatory burden on businesses during the debate, only 7% of Republican voters ranked that as their most important issue. With the national unemployment rate now at 5.1%, it is perhaps not surprising that unemployment is ranked lower by voters in this poll.

Voters are nearly evenly split on how best to spur the nation's economic growth. Half prefer to lower taxes on individuals and business and cut some government programs to pay for that spending, while nearly the same number says to spend more on education and the nation's infrastructure, and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses to pay for that spending.

Banks to Face Shortfall

The largest US banks would face a $120 billion total shortfall of long-term debt under a Federal Reserve proposal aimed at ensuring their failure wouldn’t hurt the broader financial system.

Banks such as Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will be required to hold enough debt that could be converted into equity if they were to falter, according to a Fed rule that was approved by a unanimous vote on Friday. The Fed’s proposal, which applies to eight of the biggest US banks, requires debt and a capital cushion equal to at least 16% of risk-weighted assets by 2019 and 18% by 2022.

The broad strokes of the proposal, including the lengthy phase-in period and the 18% target instead of what some bankers thought could be as high as 20%, are easier than many in the industry expected. Fed staffers presenting the proposal at Friday’s meeting said the requirement probably will be manageable for the banks.