A report issued earlier this week on consumer confidence was not good news for an administration already beleaguered by the Affordable Care Act.
The grim outlook reaches many segments of the economy. Back in September, ShopperTrak, a store traffic measurement firm predicted this year would be the weakest shopping season since 2009. A recent Gallup poll showed consumers plan to spend an average of $704 this year on gifts compared to $786 last year.
A number of factors have combined to put consumers in a sour mood. In October, the government shutdown and ongoing party bickering over the debt ceiling plagued the economy. The administration's mishandling of the Affordable Care Act web site has compounded the uncertainty. Add to that the growing concerns about hiring and wages, and it's easy to see why confidence in the economy is at its lowest level in seven months.
Much attention will be given to the shopping activity this weekend through cyber Monday. It is the spending of the American consumer who drives 70 percent of economic activity.
A number of large retailers like Wal-mart put the blame directly on the administration for its bumbling health care roll out. A recent Gallup poll that showed 63 percent of the people are discouraged by the Affordable Care Act, which involves one sixth of the nation's economy.
By next year, all Americans are mandated to have health insurance or face a fine of $95 per year or 1 percent of their annual salary, starting in April, for every three consecutive months they are not covered. Of all the uncertainties surrounding the economy this year, health care commands the most attention since it affects everyone. Health care is a necessity, and not just an optional expense.
Nothing is more devastating for an individual or a family than to receive notice that their health care coverage is being terminated or that they will likely be paying much more for coverage.
If the government wanted to cast a pall over the holidays for many Americans this year, then that's one thing it was able to do right.
By Jim Zbick