Bloomberg – President Barack Obama, who said his “one mandate” in a second term was to help middle class families, takes the oath of office with many barriers to raising most Americans’ living standards.
Most Americans started this year with a cut in take-home pay as Congress let a temporary 2-percentage-point reduction in payroll taxes expire. Workers’ own leverage to gain wage increases will be limited for years by competition from the swollen ranks of jobless Americans as forecasters expect the unemployment rate to remain at or above 7 percent through 2014.
Even with bright spots such as signs of strength in housing and an energy boom that’s lowering fuel costs for manufacturers, forecasters predict a slower expansion as federal tax increases and spending cuts crimp growth and demand for exports drops with a weakening global economy. While the U.S. economy advanced at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter, growth of just 2 percent is seen this year, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.