Friday, June 13, 2008

Things aren't so Bad, Yet...

Greg Easterbrook at the WSJ takes an objective look at current events and finds that while things are actually pretty good, our attitudes towards current events are pretty negative, often egged on by the media.

"At a time when there exists a sense of crisis over the economy, fuel prices and many other issues, this reinforces the odd, two realities of life in the United States today: The way we are, and the way we think we are. The way we are could use some work, but overall, is pretty good. The way we think we are is terrible, horrible, awful. Possibly worse."

As he puts it, unemployment is historically low, incomes are rising slightly ahead of inflation, the vast majority of American homeowners are not threatened with foreclosure and their home is worth around a third more than 2000, living standards are the highest ever recorded, pollution is much reduced, and crime and major life threatening diseases are in decline. So why the pessimism? Part stems from the fact the nation is at war, part from the constant barrage of the 24/7 newscycle, where the only news worth reporting is bad news.

As Easterbrook puts it, when a auto plant closes it's news. When one opens, it isn't - much like our recent successes in the Middle East. We've been conditioned to believe (and continue to be) that things are much worse than they really are - Democrats blame Republicans for ruining domestic policy while Republicans blame Democrats for ruining foreign policy. While people report their own lives are pretty good, they worry about the population as a whole. By any objective measure, things aren't really as bad as reported, but you'd never know unless you dig inside the data.

Public impressions, however misguided or incorrect, are often the deciding criteria of elections. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how things play out as the fall campaign heats up.

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