Sign of the Times: Divorce Rate Drops

Marketwatch had an interesting story on how divorce rates have fallen during this economic recession. The article appeared this weekend and quotes a Phoenix area family law attorney Bonnie Booden:

Hitched to the economy
Divorce rates drop as couples realize it’s cheaper to stay together
By Marty Orgel

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — The recession and economic turmoil is creating a new class of casualties: Married couples who can’t afford to get divorced. In these tough times many people are finding it’s cheaper to stay together, even when they can’t stand each other.

“The reason that the economy has such an enormous impact on divorce is that most people in the middle-income brackets are getting by on whatever income they have. They’re just getting by,” said Bonnie Booden, a family law and divorce attorney in Phoenix.

A major factor in the divorce downturn, Booden said, is divorced couples have to establish two separate households with current funds — a prohibitive factor when you’re looking at divorce in tough economic times.

Booden said one out of every two clients is seeking consultations because they can’t afford to get divorced. They want to know what other options they might have.

“I tell them about the process, about the cost, and what a reasonable outcome might be. And once they hear the cost, and especially how you have to duplicate two households on the same money that currently funds one household, they try to think about some other options,” she said.

Who knows maybe something good will come out, as couples stick “around” and weather the storm together.

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Presidents and Economic Health

I came across an interesting post at The Liscio Report called “Presidential economics: Do parties matter?” And as I read through it I came across some interesting analysis and I realized there may be come misconceptions about which party really does what. Democrats are believed to be fiscally irresponsible, spenders and Republicans are supposed to be fiscally responsible and small government. Which should technically result in bloated budgets with lots of deficits for Democrats and trimmed outlays with balanced budgets for Republicans. I know in recent years fiscal responsibilty has been thrown out the window, but that seems to fit the pattern and does not appear to be an anaomoly.

Take a look at this chart:

Fiscal shifts

This is not what I would have expected. Democrats lowering the budget deficits and Republicans increasing it for the most part? Are we being misled here then? Do the parties have a branding issue? This is how the authors explain it:

Though the picture so far is of the Republicans as the party of austerity and the Democrats as the party of stimulus, there’s a surprise when it comes to changes in the federal deficit: Republicans are more liberal with the red ink than Dems. On average, a Republican in the White House has meant a shift of –1.9% of GDP in the government’s budget balance (i.e., towards smaller surpluses or bigger deficits), while a Dem has meant a 1.5% improvement in the budget position (or 1.8%, if you start in 1949, thereby omitting the huge World War II deficit). And in this case, the average is a faithful representation of the distribution, with only one Democrat in the minus column and only one Republican in the plus.

Some of this reflects different tax policies, with Reagan and Bush 43 cutting, and Clinton raising income taxes. But it also reflects the partisan difference in GDP growth.

Read the whole thing. Certainly makes you think, doesn’t it?

Hat tip: The Big Picture

Don’t Forget: USA Was Built on Financial Discipline

David Brooks wrote a thought provoking column today on money and debt. I think he makes a great point about “The Great Seduction” of debt and the impact on todays society. He makes some interesting observations on how powerful a role financial discipline played as the United States became the wealthiest nation on earth:

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by an large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

I think the bubble economy we’ve seen the past few years bears this point out beautifully. To consider that the US economy has been through two huge bubbles since I graduated from college in 1997 is quite staggering. The first being the dot com bubble and the second is of course the housing (mortgage) one.

The explosion in personal consumer debt and the growing economic disparity cannot be good things for the long term health of the economy. I also think that the borrow and spend mentality that has overtaken the entire country starting from the President all the way down to teenagers applying for credit cards must be rectified at some point if this country to continue to be a wealthy nation. Otherwise it will go the way of Argentina in the late 1990s.

I found Brooks column very thoughtful and

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