--Gregg Easterbrook, Brookings Institution
How bad is the economy, really? The cost of oil has gone through the roof, directly impacting gasoline prices and indirectly most everything else. When oil hit $139 a barrel, the Dow Jones dropped 400 points. We are also going through a deflating housing bubble and a related credit crisis. Yet the stock market is up again this week, unemployment remains historically low at 5.5%, and we still haven’t seen a recession, though Democrats and the media have used the “R” word repeatedly for nearly a year.
Easterbrook adds, “Inflation was up in 2007, but this stands out because the 16 previous years were close to inflation-free; living standards are the highest they have ever been, including living standards for the middle class and for the poor[; furthermore,] all forms of pollution other than greenhouse gases are in decline.”
I have looked at a contrasting set of statistics, and concluded Republicans will have a hard time justifying their stewardship of the economy to voters this Fall. Still, I share Easterbrook’s amazement that, as a recent CBS News/New York Times poll showed, "Americans' views on the economy and the general state of the country have hit an all-time low," with 81% saying the nation is on the "wrong track" – the worst-ever number for this barometer. It’s not that bad.
Easterbrook, a media person himself, believes
increasing pessimism from the news media is surely a factor – and the media grow ever-better at giving negative impressions. . . Whatever goes wrong in the country or around the world is telecast 24/7, making us think the world is falling to pieces – even when most things are getting better for most people, even in developing nations. . .
The relentlessly negative impressions of American life presented by the media, including the entertainment media, explain something otherwise puzzling that shows up in psychological data. When asked about . . . their own jobs, schools, doctors and communities, people tell pollsters the situation is good. Our impressions of ourselves and our neighbors come from personal experience. Our impressions of the nation as a whole come from the media and from political blather, which both exaggerate the negative.