Saturday, May 24, 2014

More Economic Bad News!

The economy is in the toilet!   Oh, wait.   It isn't.

OK, I feel like one of those frauds at CNN, who uses headlines like, "You'll never believe THIS!" or "She did WHAT?" and the like, as click bait to get you to watch.

But the truth is, whether you like it or not, that the economy has been slowly recovering for the last five years.

Unemployment is down.   Housing prices are up.   People are spending more.  And the Government deficit is dropping.   Oh, and the stock market is still on a five-year tear.

Why then, do so many people believe "the economy" is in bad shape?    Even when you posit all this good news to a right-wing "true believer" their standard answer is, "Oh, yea?  Well you just wait for it, buddy, the end is nigh!  This bubble economy will collapse along with Obama's Fiat Currency!"

Well, buddy, it's Chrysler-Fiat currency these days, so get your facts straight!

People love bad news.  They love to feel sorry for themselves.   As I noted before, even during the boom times of the Clinton era (or the Reagan era) most people thought things were "bad".    "Sure, some folks are making money," they'd say, "which makes it even worse for the poor!"

And on the Left, the news media (our friends are the People's Republic of NPR) love to regale us with stories about "America's Left-Behind" or some such nonsense, every morning.   Times are tough all over, we are told, and you're a fool if you think otherwise.

But that is not reality - the picture from the Left or the Right.

The reality is, most people are still going about their business, making a little money, spending a lot, and just living.   While unemployment among recent college graduates is high, the vast majority of them do find work and all of them will find work, eventually.

And I say this as when I was in college (and right after) the unemployment rate topped 10%, and was even higher for young people.   This did not stop me from getting a job, or indeed, holding three jobs at once.

Funny how that works - that some people can find a job during periods of high unemployment, and in fact,  find multiple jobs.

I did, however, have a desire to work, and was willing to accept the prevailing wages.   That was the key.   Some of my privileged friends, however, waited for a "corner office" job with a fat salary to be handed to them.   It never panned out.   And on the few occasions they did find work, they were not employed for long.  To them, the economy was always in the tank, or so it seemed.

Negativism is popular in our culture.  And the reasons for this are many.   One, I think, is that by feeling negative and put-upon, people can feel that they "deserve" the few luxuries they have in life, like a car, a house, a microwave, air conditioning, a 55" television, 500 channels of cable, a smart phone, and so on.  We are actually very wealthy people in this country, but most folks fail to realize it.

By playing the victim game, they can pretend that they are struggling and suffering under harsh conditions, and thus no one can accuse them of being pampered or over-paid.   Far from it!

This disconnect occurs because most people, quite frankly, are not worth what they are paid in this country.   Some schmuck clerk gets promoted to department manager and gets a corner office and $100,000 a year - and really has no talent, no pressing duties, or any real value to the company.   Yes, the character Ricky Gervais played in The Office does really exist.  Lately, though, these sorts have been laid off in droves, which is why they will tell you how rotten they have it (of course, not having saved any of that $100,000 a year they were making).

A lot of people today have a smart phone, but they don't know how to even use it, much less know how it works.   Ditto for their cars, their homes, their appliances, and their computers.   We are a cargo-cult culture, using magical devices handed down to us from our Geek Gods.  We don't want to think about the disconnect between our technological society and our utter lack of technical skills.

So, we play this "ain't it awful" game to compensate.  That's my theory, anyway. 

That and it is human nature to feel bad most of the time - to get depressed and wallow in our own depression and self-loathing.

So, people get together and the topic of conversation is "Ain't It Awful Because...." and no one wants to hear you say, "Aren't Things Great Because..."

I run into this all the time, here on our island and well, just about everywhere else.   Here on our idyllic island, which is maintained like a golf course, thanks to the State of Georgia, they are building us new hotels, restaurants, and a shopping center.   It is all very beautiful (it is most people's idea of a vacation resort).   Pretty sweet deal, right?   Well, to hear the residents tell it, it is all awful, corrupt, rotten, and poorly planned.   If they had their way...

But other idyllic places are the same way.  Talk to anyone who lives in Key West and they will blather on for hours how rotten the place is, what with the tourists and all...

Being positive and upbeat has two ironic consequences.   First, people will be attracted to you, as people like to be around positive and upbeat folks - if only to try to drag them down to their level.   Second, they will hate you, because your positive attitude puts their own negativity into contrast.

So, sometimes, you have to keep your positive attitude to yourself, as no one wants to hear how happy you are, or that things really are going OK.   When I say the economy is doing very well (which it is) I get shouted down by people who say it is in the toilet (which it isn't).   When I say our little island is beautiful and the improvements are great, the negative nabobs cry that it is all horrible and bad - and that I am living in a fantasy-world if I can't see all the vile corruption beneath the surface.

Perhaps.  But I think when it comes to fantasy worlds, I'd rather live in a utopia than a dystopia.  If reality really is based on perception, then why perceive it to be bad, when you could perceive it as good?   And if you really perceive reality as it is, you might just see that good outweighs the bad, particularly for people lucky enough to be living in the USA and living a middle-class lifestyle.

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