Six weeks before mid-term elections, conservative lawmakers unveiled their "Pledge to America" from a suburban Virginia hardware store. Reminiscent of the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America," the Sept. 23 pact promised to extend tax cuts, to gut the healthcare overhaul, and to certify the constitutional legitimacy of all legislation. Polls would later show that more than 50 percent of voters took notice of the pledge, which, Republicans hoped, would propel candidates to November victories and show voters that they were not just the "party of no."
On Sept. 20 the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) met by conference call and issued their official finding: A trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. That meant the endpoint of a recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. With unemployment hovering at 10 percent, Americans feeling squeezed by higher prices and lower wages, and banks holding tight to cash reserves instead of lending to businesses, few could believe in an upswing. That's because the recession lasted 18 months, making it the longest recession since World War II.
The NBER's conclusion was controversial, but the committee insisted that it determined only that the recession-a period of falling economic activity spread across the economy-ended. Recovery normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales, is the next sign to watch for.
Mexico's drug wars
At least 25 people were killed on Sept. 2 in a gun battle between Mexico's army troops and drug traffickers in the violent border state of Tamaulipas, south of Corpus Christi, Texas. Troops pursued the gunmen near Ciudad Mier after they were detected by aerial patrols, and in addition to killing the traffickers, the army rescued three kidnapping victims. As Mexico's drug war entered its fourth year, violence at its border with the United States continued to mount. In Tamaulipas, one drug cartel is battling former allies, the Zeta paramilitary gang, plunging the state further into chaos.
The same day that troops confronted drug cartels in Tamaulipas, Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered his annual state of the union address in downtown Mexico City, urging Mexicans to fight on: "I say with absolute certainty, it is possible to defeat the criminals." In the past four years more than 28,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence. Those killed in 2010 include 30 journalists and 11 mayors.