Former Trump fan looks back at historic announcement with regret

Former Trump fan looks back at historic announcement with regret - Just days from the presidential election, a fervent Donald Trump supporter present at his campaign kickoff is looking back at that June 2015 day with a pang of regret.

You might not know Lori Goldberg Burch of Jersey City, N.J., but you could have heard her voice. Her howls of approval punctuated Trump’s announcement speech in Trump Tower, leading to brief repartee between them.

“Somebody accused me of this being a set up, that he was talking to me and that we rehearsed our banter back and forth,” she recalled in a Friday interview. “It wasn’t staged at all. You know, it’s the way I felt. I really thought that he could do good for us. … I had the ultimate respect for him when I was there.”

On June 17, 2015, a day after the announcement, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Extra Mile Casting hired background actors to bulk up the crowd. Yahoo News looked into the issue and ended up speaking to Burch, who works as an actor and standup comedian. She said she was not hired that day and truly believed Trump was a great candidate.

“I definitely have full knowledge of actors being paid, I just don’t want to name any. Extra Mile went and hired at least 100 actors that day,” she said. Extra Mile Casting did not return requests for comment, but Yahoo News reported Friday that one of Trump’s advisers at the time admitted that their team had hired people to help pack the hall.

Reporters gather to cover Donald Trump’s announcement at Trump Tower in New York on June 16, 2015. (Photo: Michael Walsh/Yahoo News)

Burch was holding a yellow sign that read, “Trump Makes History 6/16/15.” Few could have expected how prophetic that sign would turn out to be when the real estate tycoon descended the escalator in Manhattan’s Trump Tower with “Rockin’ in the Free World” blaring from the speakers.

Yahoo News interviewed Burch last year to hear why she was so enraptured with Trump’s potential as a political figure. On Friday, we asked how she feels to have witnessed and been part of history in the making.

“To be quite honest, now I feel ashamed knowing the type of man I was so for,” she said. “Yes, I am. I’m ashamed that I thought this man could do well for our country, because now I don’t understand how this man got this far.”

Burch began to have second thoughts when she heard his vulgar talk about women. She said that his comments about groping women in an “Access Hollywood” video from 2005 were beyond the pale. In the video, which leaked in October, Trump boasted that his celebrity status allowed him to have his way with women.

“That’s disheartening for me as a woman and as the mother of a son,” she said. “You should never feel that way, whether it’s in private or on the record. Because it’s not something we want our boys to grow up thinking, they can treat women that way.”

Ivanka Trump introduces her father at his campaign kickoff. (Photo: Michael Walsh/Yahoo News)

For years, Trump had ingratiated himself to millions of television viewers with “The Apprentice,” and stirred up support among many American conservatives with his penchant for political theater.

Burch, a longtime Republican who worked for Richard Nixon in her youth, was impressed with the carefully crafted image Trump projected through reality television: that of an expert businessman and a loving father.

“I thought this man did a great job because his kids were so well spoken and nobody got a handout. They worked hard, and I thought he was a great businessman, and that’s what our country needed. I never thought he had the temperament of a 2-year-old,” she said.

When Trump got political, she also liked what he had to say about illegal immigration and prioritizing U.S interests. She believes it’s not any one person’s responsibility to “take care of the world” but that you should “take care of yourself so that you can give back.”

“I thought this is what we need,” she said of Trump. “We don’t need these people to kowtow to foreigners. We need somebody to be strong and to make us great again, even though I don’t think we’re that broken as a country.”

Next Tuesday, voters will decide whether Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton will be the next person to occupy the Oval Office. But Burch won’t be choosing either of them: She said she will write-in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Blog : Charapay 
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Tax Statements You Need to File

Tax Statements You Need to File - Statements are on the way from employers, banks, stockbrokers and other institutions and agencies that were involved in taxpayers' financial lives last year. Each of these groups has, by law, until Jan. 31 (or the next business day when that date falls on a holiday or a weekend) to get their annual tax statements in the mail to you.

Many taxpayers now receive these documents electronically. So be sure to double-check your email, not just the curbside mailbox, for these statements.

Common income, deduction statements

Most taxpayers depend on the same basic data to file returns. If you work for someone else, the Internal Revenue Service expects you, and the agency, to get a statement detailing that income. The data are slightly different, depending on whether you get paid a salary or do contract work, but there's a form for either case.
  • W-2 -- This is the key form, and you need one from each employer you worked for during the past year. Your W-2 shows how much money you made, how much income tax was withheld, Social Security and Medicare taxes paid, and any benefit contributions -- retirement plans, medical accounts and child care reimbursement plans.
  • 1098 -- For most homeowners, mortgage interest is tax-deductible, and this document will tell you how much you paid last year. Your lender is required to send you one of these forms if you paid at least $600 interest. Actually, your mortgage company probably won't send you an official IRS form, but a document of its own design that contains the same data. In addition to the mortgage interest, other information often found on this statement includes amounts paid toward points to get the loan and escrow disbursements for real estate taxes (also deductible) and property insurance (not deductible).
  • 1098-E -- Are you paying back a student loan? The interest on your educational debt is reported on this form; your lender must send you one if the interest tally is at least $600. You may be able to deduct your student loan interest and possibly other loan-related amounts, such as origination fees and capitalized interest. To figure the deductible portion of the interest amount found here, use the work sheet in your Form 1040 or Form 1040A instructions.
  • 1099-INT -- If you earned more than $10 in interest on a bank account or a certificate of deposit, you'll get one of these forms for each account. Don't dismiss this statement if you reinvested the interest. Tax law says you received the income even if you didn't actually have it in your hand, and reinvested earnings are still taxable income. 1099-INT statements also are issued to people who cashed in savings bonds.
  • 1099-DIV -- Earnings from individual stocks and mutual funds are reported on Form 1099-DIV. This will show dividends and capital gains distributed over $10. As with reinvested interest, if you used the dividends or distributions to buy additional shares of the stock or mutual fund, you still have to pay taxes. However, the distributions and certain, qualified dividends are taxed at the lower capital gains rates.
  • 1099-B -- If you sold stocks, bonds or mutual funds, you will receive a 1099-B from your broker or mutual fund company. This will tell you the number of shares sold, when they sold and the amount you got for the sale. You'll need this information, along with the date you bought the shares and the amount you paid for them, to figure your taxes. Beginning with 2011 statements, brokers will begin providing information on the basis (the cost of an asset plus some adjustments) of sold stock.
  • 1099-G -- Taxpayers who got a refund of state or local taxes last year will get this form. If you used those taxes as a deduction on your previous year's federal income tax return, you'll need to report the 1099-G amount on this year's return. You don't have to worry about reporting this refund as income, however, if you took the standard federal deduction instead of itemizing.
  • 1099-K – If you received payments via credit or debit cards or from third-party payment processors, such as PayPal, Amazon and eBay, you might receive a 1099-K reporting those amounts. There are triggers for amounts ($20,000) and transactions ($200), so not every person who receives such payments will get a 1099-K. This income, however, is taxable and should be reported even without issuance of a 1099-K. The new statement is an attempt to get more information on such payments to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • 1099-R -- If you received a pension or a distribution from an individual retirement account or retirement plan, the 1099-R provides the details of these transactions. The form is issued by your broker, pension plan manager or mutual fund company. You'll also get a 1099-R if you rolled over money in a retirement plan, usually a 401(k) to an IRA, or if you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. A rollover usually is not a taxable event, but a pension payout may be.
  • 1099-MISC -- Self-employed individuals who earned $600 or more should get a 1099-MISC from the employer. You should get a separate 1099-MISC for each independent job you had during the previous tax year.

Late-arriving forms
There are a couple of statements you might need for your tax records, but because of the intricacies of the financial arrangements they cover, the documents do not always arrive before the April filing deadline. But if you get an extension to file, you shouldn't have any issues.
  • Form 5498 -- Any contributions made during the calendar year to any individual retirement accounts are reported on this form. The 5498 shows traditional IRA contributions that might be deductible on your tax return, as well as any rollovers, including a direct rollover to a traditional IRA, made during the last tax year. It also reports amounts recharacterized from one type of IRA to another. It notes any amounts converted from a traditional IRA, simplified employee pension or savings incentive match plan for employees to a Roth IRA.
  • Form 5498-ESA -- Contributions to Coverdell education savings accounts, formerly known as Education IRAs, previously were reported on Form 5498, but these plans now are tracked on this statement. The youngster named as account beneficiary should get a copy of this document by April 30.
  • Schedule K-1 -- Finally, if you received money from an estate, trust, partnership or S corporation last year, you should get a Schedule K-1. However, because of the complexity of many of these arrangements, account managers tend to send out K-1s later in the tax season -- sometimes not until after the April filing deadline.

Because you do need to know this amount of K-1 income to file your return, taxpayers who get K-1s tend to file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File, to get six more months to get all their tax statements in hand. )

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The myth of energy independence

The myth of energy independence - The U.S. Won't Be Energy Independent Even If We Pump More Oil Than Saudi Arabia - This just in: The United States is about to be the new Saudi Arabia. Not the Saudi Arabia of wind, or natural gas, or some other nerd energy source nobody fights wars over, but of old-fashioned oil!

That's an easy conclusion to draw from reading the International Energy Agency's report, which projects that the U.S. will replace Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer by around 2020, lending a massive dose of establishment cred to the idea that North America is en route to energy independence within the next decade or so. Assuming that the prediction is right, this is the sort of news that can, and will, be easily misconstrued -- probably in Congress by people responsible for setting our national energy policy. Because here's the thing: While we may soon produce as much crude as Saudi Arabia, we will not actually have the same power over world markets as Saudi Arabia, and thus oil will continue to be a political, and financial pain in our side.

To keep it simple, here a few key points if you hear the Saudi Arabia line.

(1) We'll NEVER Be Like Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is special for three reasons. First, it has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves, behind Venezuela. Second, it pumps more crude each day than any other nation. Third -- and this is the important fact about Saudi Arabia -- what gives it enormous sway over the international oil market is that it could pump more if it chose.

As a net oil exporter, the country's only goal is to maintain a stable market that yields that maximum profit per barrel. It accomplishes this by leaving a couple million barrels of oil a day untouched as an insurance policy. That way if, say, a major pipeline explodes in Africa, or Iran decides to drop mines along a major oil shipping route, the country can increase its production and calm everybody down. At the same time, if oil's price drops too low, the Saudis and the rest of OPEC can choose to drop production further to stabilize prices.

Even if we do eventually outproduce Saudi Arabia, we won't be able to get the world oil market under our thumb. We don't have a compliant state-owned oil company that the president can dial up and we're going to need whatever oil we produce domestically, along with imports from Canada and Mexico. We're not going to get to be the conductor for the global oil market like the Saudis have been in the past.

(2) More Drilling Won't Make Us Energy Independent

In short, producing a ton of oil in the United States isn't going to insulate us from the rest of the globe. Mexico and Canada still aren't going to give our refineries any special neighbors-only discounts. Nor are the privately run oil companies pumping out crude in North Dakota, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. And because oil is a mostly fungible commodity traded worldwide, what happens to supply and demand in one corner of the planet impacts prices everywhere. If China and India start growing wildly again, or some sort of war causes prices to spiral, we won't be immune.

This isn't to say that producing more oil doesn't have it's advantages. It will bring more money and jobs into the states where rigs are popping up. It will shrink our import tab and also keep a cap on prices as developing countries grow and get thirstier for fuel. Beyond that, it will shrink the power of OPEC a bit. After all, the more oil that's around, the harder it is for any one country, or group of countries, to manipulate the market. These are real benefits that shouldn't be undersold. But we shouldn't act as if an oil boom will be our geopolitical or economic salvation.

(3) The Key Is Still Conservation

This can't be repeated enough: We can't drill our way to oil independence. But by conserving our usage, we can insulate ourselves from rising gas prices. Here's the IEA's economist talking to the New York Times:

Dr. Birol said the agency's prediction of increasing American self-sufficiency was 55 percent a reflection of more oil production and 45 percent a reflection of improving energy efficiency in the United States, primarily from the Obama administration's new fuel economy standards for cars. He added that even stronger policies to promote energy efficiency were needed in the United States and many other countries.

If we want to stop buying oil from places other than Canada and Mexico, we need to cut our usage. Same deal if we don't want to see prices spike as 1.3 billion Chinese inch closer to our standard of living. The scary thing is that more oil we produce, and the more our economy comes to rely on hydrocarbons, that harder it will be politically to promote sane green energy policies that actually get us to that goal. There's nothing like short-term profits to make you forget your long term interests. (

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Expect small Social Security benefit increase in 2013

Expect small Social Security benefit increase in 2013 - Social Security recipients shouldn't expect a big increase in monthly benefits come January.

Preliminary figures show the annual benefit boost will be between 1 percent and 2 percent, which would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975. Monthly benefits for retired workers now average $1,237, meaning the typical retiree can expect a raise of between $12 and $24 a month.

The size of the increase will be made official Tuesday, when the government releases inflation figures for September. The announcement is unlikely to please a big block of voters — 56 million people get benefits — just three weeks before elections for president and Congress.,h=425,pd=1,w=620/social-security.jpg

The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is tied to a government measure of inflation adopted by Congress in the 1970s. It shows that consumer prices have gone up by less than 2 percent in the past year.

"Basically, for the past 12 months, prices did not go up as rapidly as they did the year before," said Polina Vlasenko, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, based in Great Barrington, Mass.

This year, Social Security recipients received a 3.6 percent increase in benefits after getting no increase the previous two years.

Some of next year's raise could be wiped out by higher Medicare premiums, which are deducted from Social Security payments. The Medicare Part B premium, which covers doctor visits, is expected to rise by about $7 per month for 2013, according to government projections.

The premium is currently $99.90 a month for most seniors. Medicare is expected to announce the premium for 2013 in the coming weeks.

"The COLA continues to be very critical to people in keeping them from falling behind," said David Certner, AARP's legislative policy director. "We certainly heard in those couple of years when there was no COLA at all how important it was."

How important is the COLA? From 2001 to 2011, household incomes in the U.S. dropped for every age group except one: those 65 and older.

The median income for all U.S. households fell by 6.6 percent, when inflation was taken into account, according to census data. But the median income for households headed by someone 65 or older rose by 13 percent.

"That's all because of Social Security," Certner said. "Social Security has the COLA and that's what's keeping seniors above water, as opposed to everybody else who's struggling in this economy."

Seniors still, on average, have lower incomes than younger adults. Most older Americans rely on Social Security for a majority of their income, according to the Social Security Administration.

"It's useful to bear in mind that no other group in the economy gets an automatic cost-of-living increase in their income," said David Blau, an economist at The Ohio State University. "Seniors are the only group."

Still, many feel like the COLA doesn't cover their rising costs.

"You have utilities go up, your food costs go up. Think about how much groceries have gone up," said Janice Durflinger, a 76-year-old widow in Lincoln, Neb. "I would love to know how they figure that."

The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

In the past year, food prices have risen 2 percent while home energy prices have dropped 3.8 percent, according to the CPI-W. Housing costs have gone up 1.4 percent and gasoline prices have increased by 1.8 percent.

Blau said it's common for seniors to feel like the COLA doesn't reflect their rising costs, in part because older people tend to spend more of their income on health care. Medical costs have risen 4.3 percent in the past year as measured by the CPI-W.

"Inflation affects everybody differently unless you happen to be that mythical average person who buys the average bundle of goods," Blau said.

By law, the Social Security Administration compares the price index for July, August and September with consumer prices in the same three months from the last year in which a COLA was awarded. A COLA was awarded a year ago, so the index from July, August and September of this year is being compared with the index from the same period in 2011.

If prices go up over the course of the year, benefits go up, starting with payments delivered in January. But if prices go down, benefits stay the same. That's what happened in 2010 and 2011, when there was no COLA.

This year, consumer prices for July and August indicate next year's COLA would be 1.4 percent. The price index for September — the final piece of the puzzle — will be released Tuesday. Several economists said they don't expect it to change the projected COLA by more than a few tenths of a percentage point, if at all.

Vlasenko estimates the COLA will be from 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent. AARP estimates it will be about 1.5 percent.

Since 1975, the annual COLA has averaged 4.2 percent. Only five times has it been below 2 percent, including the two times it was zero. Before 1975, it took an act of Congress to increase Social Security payments.

"Over the past year, consumer prices have only gone up a little bit," Blau said. "By historical standards, it's a very low rate of increase." ( ABC OTUS News )

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Social Security

The issue: Social Security

Unless Congress acts, the trust funds that support Social Security will run out of money in 2033, according to the trustees who oversee the retirement and disability program. At that point, Social Security would collect only enough tax revenue each year to pay about 75 percent of benefits. That benefit cut wouldn't sit well with the millions of older Americans who rely on Social Security for most of their income.


Where they stand:

President Barack Obama hasn't laid out a detailed plan for addressing Social Security. He's called for bipartisan talks on strengthening the program but he didn't embrace the plan produced by a bipartisan deficit reduction panel he created in 2010.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney proposes a gradual increase in the retirement age to account for growing life expectancy. For future generations, Romney would slow the growth of benefits "for those with higher incomes." 
Associated Press/Alan Diaz, File - FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2011, file photo Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks to participants at a town hall meeting in Miami. Romney discussed his plans to improve the economy, create jobs and protect Social Security. For Social Security Romney proposes a gradual increase in the retirement age to account for growing life expectancy. For future generations, Romney would slow the growth of benefits "for those with higher incomes." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

Why it matters:

For millions of retired and disabled workers, Social Security is pretty much all they have to live on, even though monthly benefits are barely enough to keep them out of poverty. Monthly payments average $1,237 for retired workers and $1,111 for disabled workers. Most older Americans rely on Social Security for a majority of their income; many rely on it for 90 percent or more, according to the Social Security Administration.

Social Security is already the largest federal program and it's getting bigger as millions of baby boomers reach retirement. More than 56 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. That number that will grow to 91 million by 2035, according to congressional estimates.

Social Security could handle the growing number of beneficiaries if there were more workers paying payroll taxes. But most baby boomers didn't have as many children as their parents did, leaving relatively fewer workers to pay into the system.

In 1960, there were 4.9 workers for each person getting benefits. Today, there are about 2.8 workers for each beneficiary, and that ratio will drop to 1.9 workers by 2035.

Nevertheless, Social Security is ripe for congressional action in the next year or two, if lawmakers get serious about addressing the nation's long-term financial problems. Why? Because Social Security is fixable.

Despite the program's long-term problems, Social Security could be preserved for generations to come with modest but politically difficult changes to benefits or taxes, or a combination of both.

Some options could affect people quickly, such as increasing payroll taxes or reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments for those who already get benefits. Others options, such as gradually raising the retirement age, wouldn't be felt for years but would affect millions of younger workers.

Fixing Social Security won't be easy. All the options carry political risks because they have the potential to affect nearly every U.S. family while angering powerful interest groups. Liberal advocates and some Democrats oppose all benefit cuts; conservative activists and some Republicans say tax increases are out of the question.

But Social Security is easier to fix than Medicare or Medicaid, the other two big government benefit programs. Unlike Medicare and Medicaid, policymakers don't have to figure out how to tame the rising costs of health care to fix Social Security.

Social Security's problems seem far off. After all, the program has enough money to pay full benefits for 20 more years. But the program's financial problems get harder to fix with each passing year. The sooner Congress acts, the more subtle the changes can be because they can be phased in slowly. ( Associated Press )

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Israel finance minister says Iran economy "on verge of collapse"

Israel finance minister says Iran economy "on verge of collapse" - Iran's economy is edging towards collapse due to international sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday.

Israel regards the prospect of its arch enemy developing nuclear weapons as a threat to its existence, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that, although sanctions are taking their toll, they are not yet forcing Iran to abandon work that could soon lead to a nuclear warhead. 

However, Israeli officials appear increasingly ready to acknowledge the effect of recent American and European sanctions designed to restrict Iran's lifeline oil exports.

"The sanctions on Iran in the past year jumped a level," Steinitz told Israel Radio, noting that as finance minister, he follows Iran's economy.

"It is not collapsing, but it is on the verge of collapse. The loss of income from oil there is approaching $45-50 billion by the year's end," Steinitz said.

The United States, Israel's main ally, says it will not allow Tehran to produce the bomb, but sanctions should be given more time to work before force is considered.

American and Israeli commentators say a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear plants, which Iran says are designed only to develop a nuclear generating capacity, could trigger a regional war with unforeseeable consequences.

In Israel too, some prominent political and military figures question Netanyahu's warning that Iran is so close to the threshold of nuclear capability that military action will soon be the only way to stop it.

But there has been no open split in his coalition over the issue. Steinitz praised the prime minister's speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week in which he used graphics to underscore the perceived Iranian threat.


An Israeli Foreign Ministry document leaked last week said sanctions had caused more damage to Iran's economy than at first thought and ordinary Iranians were suffering under soaring inflation, although this did not appear to be changing policy.

On Saturday, the Iranian currency slumped to an historic low of about 28,400 rials to the dollar, a fall of about 57 percent since June 2011, meaning a sharp rise in the price of imports.

"The Iranians are in great economic difficulties as a result of the sanctions," Steinitz said.

Parliamentary opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say sanctions are not a major cause of Iran's economic problems and accuse his government of mismanaging the economy.

"The first approach today is that authorities accept their mistakes and failures, second, that they not blame their mistakes on others, and third, that they invite all the pundits and experts to find a way to solve the problems of the economy," Iranian legislator Ezzatollah Yousefian was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Saturday's Haaretz daily that he believed Iran's Islamic theocracy would be toppled in a revolt like the one that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year.

"The opposition demonstrations that took place in Iran in June 2009 will come back in even greater force," he told the paper. "In my view, there's going to be an Iranian-style Tahrir revolution. The young generation are sick of being held hostage and sacrificing their future." ( Reuters )

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Spain crisis fuels Catalan separatist sentiment

Spain crisis fuels Catalan separatist sentiment — Three weeks after a massive Catalan separatist march in Barcelona — the biggest since the 1970s — the independence flags still flutter from balconies across Spain's second largest city.

Spain's crushing recession has had this divisive consequence: soaring popular sentiment in Catalonia that the affluent region would be better off as separate nation.

On Thursday, regional lawmakers voted to hold a referendum for Catalonia's seven million citizens to decide whether they want to break away from Spain. The Spanish government says that the referendum would be unconstitutional. And it's unclear if the "Yes" vote would win — even in these restless times.

But it looks more likely than ever that Catalonia may ask to go its own way. 
Associated Press/Emilio Morenatti, File - FILE - Demonstrators wave Catalan flags during a protest rally in Barcelona , Spain, in this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 file photo. Thousands of people demonstrated in Barcelona on Tuesday demanding independence for Catalonia, on the Catalonia region's 'National Day". On Thursday, regional lawmakers voted to hold a referendum for Catalonia's seven million citizens to decide whether they want to break away from Spain. The Spanish government says that the referendum would be unconstitutional. And it's unclear if the "Yes" vote would win — even in these restless times. But it looks more likely than ever that Catalonia may ask to go its own way. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

"I have a big Catalan flag on the balcony. I put it up a week before the demonstration on Sept. 11 and it is still hanging there," said Gemma Mondon, 46, a mother of two. "I think we would be better off if we can manage our money. I think we would do much better."

Catalonia, a northeastern region that is historically one of Spain's wealthiest and most industrialized, has always harbored a strong nationalist streak. Separatism is especially entrenched in the rural towns and villages outside its more cosmopolitan capital Barcelona, where people switch between speaking Spanish and Catalan with ease and at times without even noticing.

In the peaceful transition from the Franco dictatorship to prosperous democracy, Catalans were content just to recover the freedom to openly speak, teach and publish in their own Catalan language, a right denied under Franco for over 30 years.

But now, generations-old grievances for more self-government and recognition of their culture are rising to the surface as the economic downturn bites.

Many Catalans feel their quest for a sense for nationhood has been frustrated by the intransigence of the central government in Madrid. The most recent of these clashes came in 2010 when Spain's Constitutional Court weakened the Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia, a sweeping package of laws that devolved more power to the region and would have recognized Catalonia as a nation, albeit one within Spain.

Spain's slump, which has led to a spike in unemployment and harsh austerity cuts, has proven to be the tipping point for many Catalans who used to be against or ambivalent about seeking their own state.

Mondon, who works for a family run real estate management firm, said that just over a year ago she voted "No" in a nonbinding referendum organized by pro-independence groups. Now, she says she has changed her mind.

"I always felt Spanish and Catalan and I never had the urge to be independent. A year ago I just wanted to be left alone to speak my language and raise my children in a Catalan school," said Mondon. "My attitude was 'don't bother me,' but now that has changed."

Catalonia will go to the polls on Nov. 25, with regional president Artur Mas' center-right nationalist party Convergencia i Unio expected to increase its hold of the regional parliament. Mas has said he will hold a referendum on Catalonia's self-determination, whether the Spanish government permits it or not. The date has yet to be set.

"If the Spanish government authorizes (the referendum), more the better," said Mas. "If the Spanish government turns its back on us and doesn't authorize a referendum or another type of vote, well, we will do it anyway."

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists the country's constitution doesn't allow a region to secede on its own, and experts say it would be virtually impossible for Catalan separatists to get it changed. Spain's Basque region, the other part of the country with a strong separatist movement, tried to get such a move approved in Parliament in 2005 but failed.

"It's not a scenario planned by the constitution," said Francisco Perez-Latre, a communications professor at the University of Navarra who has closely monitored the Catalan independence movement for years.

The new political uncertainty about the economically important region and major tourism destination is unsettling for investors already worried about Rajoy's ability to keep his country's shaky economy afloat, and within the euro currency club.

There are also doubts about how well-equipped Catalonia would be to go it alone.

Catalonia, sitting on its own mountain of debt, has in fact asked Spain for a €5.9 billion bailout. But many Catalans argue that the region is only heavily indebted because it has to pay more than its fair due in taxes compared to services and funding it gets in return. Spain's other better-off regions also give more than they receive. Rajoy, however, has emboldened Catalan separatists by flatly rejecting demands for more power in levying tax revenues and deciding how it is spent, privileges granted to two other Spanish regions: the Basque Country and Navarra.

Rajoy's stance has combined with Spain's gloomy prospects to push Catalans who never wanted to break away from Spain before to conclude that the country itself is a failure.

"I put the Catalan flag on my balcony for the first time. Normally, I have been very discreet with my political ideas. But I think now I have to go a step further," said architect Albert Estanyol, 48, whose mother came from southern Spain. "Before, when asked about independence, I would say 'Why?' Now, I say, 'Why not?'"

Catalonia has over 800,000 unemployed, almost 22 percent of its population. That's slightly lower than Spain's national jobless rate, but the back-to-back recessions have been particularly hard on young workers in Catalonia. Since 2007, over 100,000 Catalans under 25 have lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate for workers under 25 has skyrocketed to over 50 percent, close to the national level for the same age bracket.

"I have looked for work. Since I was 18 I have had six or seven jobs, they have all been unstable, poorly paid, like filling in for two weeks at IKEA. They have had nothing to do with what I studied," said Roger Cervino, a 23-year-old who holds a degree in history.

"The economic situation is bad and one of the solutions to ending the crisis is secession. It would be complicated, but Catalonia has the capacity to reach full employment," he said. "What stops it is Spain, and above all the Spanish government, which has been a disaster." ( Associated Press )

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