In your opinion, which of the following choices best depicts where things stand in today's America (choose "A," "B," or "C"):
A. "All Areas of the Country Show Growth, Fed Reports" (Associated Press)
The U.S. economy started the year off well with busier factories, higher retail sales, more jobs and growth in home sales.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that all 12 of its banking districts reported some level of growth in January and the first half of February.
The Fed's report "was surprisingly more upbeat than we've seen lately," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets. "The employment picture is certainly brighter."
Overall economic activity increased at a "modest to moderate" pace, the Fed noted. That roughly matches the Fed's assessment of the economy in the final weeks of 2011. And it is slightly better than the "slow to moderate" growth cited for October and mid-November.
The pickup in growth reported by each Fed region corresponds with stronger hiring and declining unemployment over the past three months.
The latest Beige Book, as the Fed report is formally known, sketched a picture of an economy improving in most major sectors.
B. "Growing Number Of Americans Can't Afford Food, Study Finds" (Huffington Post)
More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit research group. About 18.6 percent of people -- almost one out of every five -- told Gallup pollsters that they couldn't always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011.
One might assume that number got smaller wrapped up with the national unemployment rate falling for several consecutive months. In actuality, the reverse proved true: the number of people who said they couldn't afford food just kept rising and rising.
The findings from FRAC highlight what many people already know: The economic recovery, in theory now more than two years old, has done little to keep millions of Americans out of poverty and deprivation. Incomes for many haven't kept pace with the cost of living, and for a large swath of the country, things today are as bad as ever, or worse.
Forty-six million people lived below the poverty line as of 2010, a record number, according to the Census Bureau, and one that's not even as high as some other estimates would have it. Take a further step back and the situation appears even more dire. About 45 percent of people in the U.S. have reported not being able to cover their basic living expenses, including food, shelter and transportation, according to the group Wider Opportunities for Women.
How'd you do?
(Image: source and source)