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America's middle class is in trouble. Here's what that fact means for the world's largest economy — and the rest of planet earth.
 

Obama hits back on Romney's 47 percent comment (VIDEO)

In an interview with Univision, President Barack Obama explains his position to middle class voters, and anyone else who will listen.
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Co-hosts Jorge Ramos, left, and Maria Elena Salinas sit with US President Barack Obama during a break in a taping of Univision News' "Meet the Candidates" at the University of Miami Sept. 20 in Coral Gables, Fla. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — The plight of middle class Americans has, of course, been a key aspect of the current campaign for the White House.

Both President Barack Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have tried mightily to woo this economically-challenged group, particularly in the swing states where November's election is likely to be decided.

This strategy hasn't gone particularly well for the latter this week and on Thursday, President Obama kept up the pressure — in English and in Spanish.

During an interview with the Spanish-language TV stations Univision, Obama responded in full to the fallout over Mitt Romney's now infamous 47-percent comments.

"I've been president now for almost four years," Obama said. "But the day I was elected, that night in Grant Park where I spoke to the country, I said 47 percent of the people didn't vote for me. But I heard your voices and I'm going to work just as hard for you as those who did vote for me. That's how you have to operate as president."

Here's the full clip:

Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney also appeared on Univision Thursday.

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America the Gutted: How big of a problem is China?

A new Pew Research Center survey shows that a majority of Americans view China as an economic threat. The finding is not surprising. But does it make sense?
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What does the Buddha think? (Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — "The whole secret of existence is to have no fear."

So said the Buddha.

Then again, that happy chubster wasn't particularly concerned with a structural economic shift that contributed to a steady decline in his income, or the rise of a distant economic power that — over a period of several decades — cornered the market on his profession of spiritual philosophy.

Unfortunately, millions of middle-class Americans don't have that luxury.

So the results of a Pew Research Center survey this week should come as no surprise: Americans, by a large majority, fear China's economic prowess.

Examine these numbers:

According to Pew, 59 percent of Americans view China's economic rise as a threat, versus the 28 percent who are more troubled by China's military power.

Sixty-six percent view China as a competitor, versus the 16 percent who see Beijing as a partner.

A full 78 percent believe China's large holdings of US debt is a serious problem.

Seventy-one percent see US job losses to China in that same light, while 61 percent believe the US trade deficit with China is a serious problem.

Download the full Pew report here. It's jam-packed with all sorts of interesting data, and well-worth a read.

But how should we interpret these feelings and findings? And, on a more philosophical level, is the Buddha right?

Our 10-month investigation America the Gutted — which will hit GlobalPost on Oct. 15 — offers some clues.

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Outsourced or insourced: An Indian lawyer's tale

Legal Process Outsourcing is hot, but it's not for ever.
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Rajinder Singh, shone here in his chambers at New Delhi's Patiala House Court, found at least one US law firm didn't pay enough to make legal process outsourcing work worth his time. (Jason Overdorf/GlobalPost)

NEW DELHI – As part of the America: the Gutted series, GlobalPost will examine how the growth of legal process outsourcing is affecting the law business in America and in India. By all accounts, the LPO business is booming in India. But what's it like to be a lawyer in India, anyway? We talked to New Delhi High Court advocate Rajinder Singh to find out.

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Mitt Romney's 47 percent comment: Manna for Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart (VIDEO)

The economic plight of the middle class and other struggling Americans is front and center, and fodder for hilarity. Late Night and The Daily Show pile on.

BOSTON — Late night comedians are always looking for laughs.

This is, of course, right and good: the use of comedy and satire is a highly satisfying way to deal with human foibles, from Jonathan Swift to Jon Stewart.

Laughter is also a way of coping with pain, which is widespread in an American economy where median household income fell by 1.5 percent last year to just over $50,000, and where millions of people remain unemployed or underemployed.

Enter Mitt Romney and the ongoing media storm over the Mother Jones "secret tapes," in which the GOP candidate said 47 percent of Americans are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled."

Jimmy Fallon, naturally, pounced on his "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" show.

Here's the clip, America, which expertly conflates middle class woes and Romney's political problems with the hottest pop cultural references in the country, from Kate Middleton's topless photos, to Honey Boo Boo to Nicki Minaj:

Not to be outdone, The Daily Show also jumped onto the story.

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Outsourced or Insourced: Mr. Singh goes to London

Legal Process Outsourcing? Try Indian lawyer Insourcing.
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The sun sets over the skyline of Mumbai on September 7, 2012. Media outlets have recently reported an increase of legal outsourcing to India. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid a lawyer glut in the US, legal process outsourcing to India is booming. But insourcing might be the next big thing, if New Delhi advocate Rajinder Singh's recent trip to London is anything to go on.

According to LegallyIndia.com, recruiters at India's highest paying firm, AZB & Partners, offer salaries of about $20,700 to fresh lawyers, along with a "competitive bonus" that likely amounts to $3500-$7000. Not much compared to what you earn in New York City. But that's IF you can get a job.

As the Wall Street Journal's law blog points out, courtesy of Business Insider, there's been a "nearly five-fold explosion in the number of law graduates between 1963 and 2010," while the number of US lawyers getting hired plunged from 85% in 2011 to 62% in 2012. 

The good news? LPO and other forms of globalization of the law business saves US firms money, speeds turnaround time, allows for "flexible" staffing (um...good for whom again?), and allows access to "external talent."

Which is where Mr. Singh comes in.

This summer, Rajinder was invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to London by a UK law firm which shall remain nameless. Turns out they had all kinds of questions from their South Asian clients about marital and property disputes back in India. (And, as my story about Passport Officer Parneet Singh's crusade against runaway husbands pointed out, many of these guys weren't about to zip back to India to seek advice).  

So what did our UK firm do? They insourced Rajinder to talk to their clients. And then they set him up in a booth at the mall to dole out legal advice like a department store Santa Claus at 15 pounds a pop.

"These people advertized with my picture, 'the famous matrimonial lawyer is going to visit the UK on such and such a date,' and I was given the impression that I would be addressing people they would be inviting for conferences," Singh said.

"So the first day, of course, we had an auditorium booked, and I gave a lecture for about half an hour, about how to get out of [domestic dispute litigation], and there was a question and answer session that lasted about three hours."

"After that, you know, the next day, their program was they put up a canopy in a town center in Berkshire--a town center is a kind of mall area where people come for shopping--and they distributed pamphlets across Southhall, where the majority of Indians live, Langley, Southhall, Maidenhead. So, a lot of people collected there. I was sitting there, and those lawyers who were distributing the pamphlets were charging some 100 or 70 pounds for advice, and in turn, I would get 15 pounds.  I came to realize that very quickly, because people were haggling for money."

He slaved like a cooley as the line stretched on and on. But that wasn't the worst of it.

"There was so much of rush of people, but they prevented me from giving my own information or my business card or my telephone numbers or email ID to anyone. That was fine by me. I thought, okay, maybe I'll make a little money there."

After all, he was there anyway. Even at 15 pounds a pop, he didn't have any overhead. And 15 pounds ($24) would stretch a little farther in India. But his promoters forgot one thing: Both Singh and their clients are Indian.

"Ultimately, it so transpired that some of the smarter Indians, just one of the Sikh guys, he came and asked me, 'What are you being paid here?'  I told him honestly, and I asked him why he was asking. He said, 'You know, we are paying a bomb to get this information from you.'  And you know, one thing that I didn't like was that they were recording all the advice I was giving so that they could incorporate my knowledge into their system, and they wouldn't need me again at all. So that guy told me, 'You give me your number, I have some 30-40 people, we'll meet you separately at some other place and we'll give you 25 pounds per advice.'"

"I liked the idea, so I went down for a smoke and passed my telephone number on to this guy, and the next day, this guy picked me up from the place where I was staying and took me to a cafe in Southall that he had booked, and he had brought some 30-40 people whom I advised, so I was able to gather maybe 1200 pounds there in one go."

"Those guys, most of them are illegal immigrants, are now calling me: 'You come here, you make it a quarterly affair, we'll advertise, and we'll share the fees.'"

Meanwhile, the law firm started getting a lot of queries for additional business after Singh had left. "They are also of Asian origin. They gave me an offer: OK, we'll give you a fixed amount of 50,000 rupees per bail matter.  That is peanuts!  I am charging 50,000 rupees for one appearance in the courts.  Handling an entire matter in 50,000, the fees would not worked out."

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Obama campaign jumps on Romney's 47 percent comment (VIDEO)

Well, that was fast. The Mother Jones "secret video" scoop has entered the race, big time.
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US President Barack Obama (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, that was fast.

President Barack Obama's reelection campaign didn't waste much time pouncing on Mitt Romney and the GOP candidate's very bad day.

In a YouTube video titled "47 percent," the Obama team is putting Romney's latest video gaffe front and center.

The official campaign video purports to show real Americans reacting to a "secret video" obtained by Mother Jones of Romney at a dinner with private donors.

In the Mother Jones video now going viral around the web, Romney spoke — in an "off the cuff" manner — about the 47 percent of Americans who he said are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled."

That's not exactly what most middle class voters want to hear, particularly in swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other places around the United States where incomes are falling and living standards are declining.

Here's how Team Obama pounced:

Also today, Mother Jones released the full 49-minute version of the Romney talk.

Here's what that looks like, in two-parts:

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Outsourced or insourced: Mr. Singh, collection agent

Sometimes, hiring those pesky lawyers in India doesn't pay off.

Legal process outsourcing is a booming business, and a central focus of GlobalPost's America: the Gutted series, as I mentioned yesterday here.  But that doesn't mean it works for everybody.

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Secret Video: What does Mitt Romney really think of Obama voters? (UPDATED)

An exclusive video obtained by Mother Jones shows the GOP candidate "raw and unplugged" discussing the 47 percent and, now, foreign policy.
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Graphic. (Kyle Kim/GlobalPost)

It's not exactly news that Mitt Romney has had some trouble connecting with a large part of the American electorate.

This is especially true when it comes to middle and lower income Americans, particularly those who receive government assistance and — according to the GOP presidential candidate — voted for President Barack Obama four years ago.

So it's a safe bet to assume that Romney's standing with this group won't be helped by a video scoop today from Mother Jones, which features a "secret video" of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser earlier this year.

Here's how David Corn framed the Mother Jones exclusive:

"During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax."

Romney went on to say the following: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Here's the clip obtained by Mother Jones, which has been blurred to protect the identity of the photographer, and which Corn claims has been verified by the publication:

The Mother Jones story also includes video clips of Romney speaking candidly on a variety of subjects, ranging from why he's treating Obama "gingerly" (voters don't want to be wrong about 2008), to extolling his team of experienced "consultants" (including those who have worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others), to what he thinks wins elections (political ads), and to what will happen to the financial markets if he wins (they'll go up).

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Mother Jones released a second batch of secret videos, including Mitt Romney's unvarnished thoughts on several foreign policy issues, including Israel, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and his assessment of Obama's foreign policy moves.

Also on Tuesday, Mitt Romney was forced to acknowledge the public furor over the comments.

Later in the day, and following Romney's urging, Mother Jones released the full 49-minute video, in two parts.

 

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Outsourced or insourced: An Indian lawyer's tale

Legal Process Outsourcing? The going rate for legal advice in India

Legal process outsourcing, or LPO, is one of the hottest sectors for offshoring -- helping Overland Park, Kansas-based United Lex grow its billing by more than ten times over the past three years to become one of America's fastest growing companies, according to Inc magazine and LegallyIndia.com

GlobalPost will be taking an in-depth look at the LPO business in India as part of the America: the Gutted project.  But here's a nibble of what's to come:

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America the Gutted: What's middle-income to Mitt Romney?

On ABC's Good Morning America, Mitt Romney says "middle income is $200,00 to $250,000."
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US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a campaign rally in Fairfax, Virginia, on September 13, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the Census Bureau this week, real median household income in the United States fell to $50,054 in 2011.

That number is down 1.5 percent from the previous year and, when adjusted for inflation, is at a 17-year low.

It's about 9 percent lower from its 1999 peak, the Census Bureau said in a new report.

The downward income trend is another unpleasant reminder of just how difficult it's been for middle class Americans in recent years, particularly since the start of the Great Recession.

Enter Mitt Romney, who's wooing middle class voters by arguing that his economic policies are best for the US economy.

Romney tried to make that case again this morning on ABC's Good Morning America program.

It didn't quite work out that way, at least in his attempt to make middle class voters believe that he understands their problems.

See this exchange with host George Stephanopolous, as reported by Gawker.

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