"After months of bad news and declining economic indicators, we see some evidence that Americans are starting to look for reasons to be optimistic even if they expect the recession to continue," said Carl George, chair of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. "That is a good sign. We hope to see continued improvement in optimism as the substantial federal policies put in place begin to lift the economy and confidence is restored."
The annual survey by the AICPA was designed to gauge how the economy is affecting individuals' personal financial well-being.
The survey found a 79 percent majority hold negative views of the U.S. banking system. Twenty-eight percent expect the $700 billion in bailout funds in the Troubled Asset Relief Program to cover losses rather than feed new credit. Twenty-five percent believed the funds would be used to pay bonuses, and 22 percent said banks were simply holding the funds as capital. Only 7 percent anticipate the TARP funds will be used to begin lending again. Still, 50 percent think the $737 billion stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama will begin to boost the economy over the next six months to two years. Sixteen percent feel it will take more than two years for the stimulus package to boost the economy. Three-in-ten, 30 percent, said the stimulus would not help the economy.
Asked to select one of three potential economic scenarios they believe is most likely to happen, 45 percent supported a projection that credit would continue to tighten despite federal efforts and the economy will remain sluggish as unemployment worsens and deflation takes hold. Twenty-two percent predicted credit availability would recover and inflation would remain under control as moderate, sustained growth returns. Twenty percent said U.S. policies would successfully reignite the economy but inflation would become a new problem.