(CNN Student News) -- March 19, 2009
AIG Update - Learn about the expanding controversy involving bonuses paid by AIG.
World Unemployment - Examine increases in unemployment rates in countries around the world.
Game On - Consider why some are turning to gaming for affordable entertainment.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: An entertaining escape from the struggling economy? Hope you're game for that story. It's coming up a little later in today's program. For CNN Student News, my name is Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: First up, the giant insurance company AIG is asking employees who got bonuses of more than $100,000 to return at least half. Of course, the bonuses have raised this huge controversy because AIG has gotten a government bailout to help keep the company in business. AIG justified the bonuses by pointing to part of the economic stimulus bill. It said that existing contracts for bonuses at companies getting federal bailout money should be honored.
Yesterday evening, Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate banking committee, said that he's responsible for putting that language in the stimulus bill. But he added that officials from the Obama administration urged him to do so. An official from the Treasury Department confirmed that information yesterday. The concern was that the government might face numerous lawsuits if it didn't honor the bonuses. With the controversy surrounding AIG turning to the White House, Dan Lothian examines how President Obama is responding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN REPORTER: Trying to put out the AIG wildfire, President Obama said ultimately, this is his mess.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The buck stops with me.
LOTHIAN: So, why wasn't the president informed about the bonuses a lot sooner? His treasury secretary Timothy Geithner found out last Tuesday, but the White House says the president was not informed until two days later. When pressed on this timeline, Mr. Obama took a pass.
OBAMA: Well, look, rather than going, sort of the details of finding it out, ultimately, I'm responsible. I'm the president of the United States.
LOTHIAN: Pressure is building on this administration. One lawmaker has even called on Secretary Geithner to resign. But on the White House lawn, before flying off to California, the president vigorously defended his treasury secretary, who was standing by his side.
OBAMA: Nobody's working harder than this guy. You know, he is making all the right moves in terms of playing a bad hand. I have complete confidence in Tim Geithner and my entire economic team.
LOTHIAN: President Obama lashed out at a culture of greed, excess and risk-taking that undermined the giant insurance company. The administration is now working with key lawmakers to fast track legislation creating an oversight agency, aiming to prevent some of these problems down the road.
OBAMA: It would allow us proactively to get out in front, make sure that we're separating out bad assets from good, dealing with contracts that may be inappropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for some Fast Facts! What exactly does "unemployed" mean? Well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers someone unemployed if he or she doesn't have a job, is available to work, and is actively looking for work. At the end of February, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 8.1%, the highest it's been in more than 25 years. The number of unemployed Americans has increased by about 5 million over the past year.
AZUZ: As you've gathered by now, the economic crisis is a global issue, so it's no surprise that the U.S. is not alone when it comes to an increase in the unemployment rate. Jobs are being cut in countries around the world, and in parts of Europe, the statistic is just as high as it is here in America. Colleen McEdwards breaks down the numbers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, ANCHOR, CNN WORLD NEWS: Everyone is concerned about holding on to their jobs. In the United States, unemployment hit 8.1%. That is the number right there for the month of February. And if you check jobless rates all around the globe, for the 16 member Eurozone, unemployment up 8.2%. Spain among the hardest hit in Europe with unemployment at almost 14% there. Now, in the U.K., 6.3% of workers are out of a job, and that is the highest that it has been in ten years. The world's second largest economy, Japan, you see it there, it is at 4.1% unemployment. While in China, official figures show 4.2% of the urban workforce is unemployed, but if you look at that figure in the countryside and among migrant workers, it is believed to be much, much higher there. And when you look at numbers like those, it is absolutely no surprise that the economy is on the minds of most Americans.
A new CNN Opinion Research poll shows 63% of those surveyed say the economy is issue number one. That is far and away above any other issue. To break it down even further, the biggest economic issue for Americans: unemployment. Our poll shows that job worries have tripled over the past year as that unemployment rate rises. Inflation is second at 20%, followed by the mortgage crisis at 16%, the stock market at 14%, and taxes at 11%. And some experts say this is all a recipe for many more months of lagging confidence and economic troubles that just won't quit. I'm Colleen McEdwards. Back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AZUZ: So, if you need a job in this global recession, Coach Wyatt's class says you should "dress for success and be very confident in your abilities." Utau writes, "I guess the biggest tip would be to just be yourself, while looking professional of course." Marianne has three major keys to success: "Smile and seem friendly, look your best, and emphasize your best features!"
Miss Whitmore's class took it a few steps further: "Be respectful when speaking with managers, make good eye contact, dress appropriately, and use proper grammar. Also, speak clearly, be on time for interviews, and be confident in yourself." Hunter says his key tips for success are "good manners, respect for your peers and superiors, leadership skills and a dedicated work ethic." Dana writes that "if you've been involved in scouts, you might've had some training in sales tactics for fundraisers; you could put that on a resume." And Hannah says, "I think that if you can't get a normal job, then you should start your own job; you could mow people's lawns or do a babysitting thing."
RAMSAY: Time for the Shoutout! During the past six months, about what percentage of Americans have postponed making a major purchase? Is it: A) 80%, B) 60%, C) 40% or D) 20%? You've got three seconds -- GO! According to a new CNN poll, about 60 percent of Americans have put off a major purchase recently. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: One thing we found interesting about this is that income, how much money you make, isn't a factor. This poll indicates that the cutbacks on major purchases, things like furniture and big appliances, are the same for wealthy Americans as they are for households with lower income. While they scale back big spending, many Americans are looking for inexpensive ways to be entertained. As Kareen Wynter explains, that means "game on" for one industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN REPORTER: As the recession carries on, Americans are still coughing up the cash to be entertained. Movie box office numbers remain strong, and many are finding good entertainment value in their own home with video games. This, says G4 TV's Adam Sessler, is because consumers are getting a lot more bang out of their gaming buck.
ADAM SESSLER, HOST, G4TV: It's an investment that gives a lot of return. You spend your money the first time, but you don't use up all of the fun that it has.
WYNTER: According to the NPD Research Group, the video game industry earned $1.3 billion in sales in January, up 13% from January of '08. Communal games like Wii Fit, Wii Play and Guitar Hero World Tour are just a few of the titles driving up retail.
SESSLER: A lot of them are party games, and those are very successful. It really is a way for people to get together at a relatively low cost and have a lot of fun.
WOMAN ON STREET: It provides us for family entertainment, something different, the alternative from going out to a movie and spending $60 on dinner and a movie.
MAN ON STREET #1: A lot better than a plane ticket or something. Stay home, keep the money in my pocket.
WYNTER: When vacation plans got too pricey for this couple, they say buying a new console was the way to go.
MAN ON STREET #2: We have cancelled two of our trips we were going to take this year, and in place of that we bought a Wii. It's something of more material good and will last longer.
WYNTER: Sessler also tells us that games provide another source of escapism, as more gamers are finding consolation in their gaming consoles during tough times. Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hollywood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Before We Go
AZUZ: And finally today, that roller-coaster ride that Wall Street's been on? One Seattle restaurant is eating it up, and so are its customers! The price of the Bell Ringing Blue Plate special is based on where the Dow Jones Industrial Average ends the day. For example, yesterday it closed at about 7,500, which means dinner cost $7.50. So, a bad day for the Dow is a good deal for diners. Any chance this continues if the economy recovers?
AZUZ: It's possible, but we Dow-t it. Man, that was just painful. We'll see you tomorrow if you choose to join us and risk more puns. For CNN Student news, I'm Carl Azuz.