18 March 2004
Are you better off today?
Ronald Reagan asked this question in 1980, and rather a large number of people at the time decided that they weren't.
Dean Esmay, citing this piece from The Economist, says that the current crop of doomsayers is simply wrong:
Things aren't just "looking up," they're actually better than they've ever been, and getting better all the time for the vast majority of America. And whose lives are improving fastest of all? Minority groups, particularly blacks, and those at the lowest level of the income scale, all improving their lot in life at a record pace.
Personally, I'd amend Dean's statement slightly, to read like this:
And whose lives are improving fastest of all? Apart from corporate CEOs and other people outside the normal marketplace, the greatest improvements are among minority groups, particularly blacks, and those at the lowest level of the income scale, all improving their lot in life at a record pace.
But note: if my income goes up 5 percent which, incidentally, it hasn't and John Q. Pinstripe's compensation, including stock options and bonuses, goes up 8 percent, the much-decried gulf between richest and poorest widens slightly, even though my situation has inarguably improved.
And Dean says, quite reasonably:
1) The news media makes its money by making people think the world's in a constant state of crisis, and 2) No matter how well-off people are, they're usually convinced that things suck and are getting worse.
At this particular point in time, any degree of uncertainty and if there's one thing we have in abundance in 2004, it's uncertainty contributes to that perceived suckage. On the other hand, if you were somehow able to banish most of that uncertainty, you'd also breed a fair amount of cynicism: "Oh, sure, they tell us that everything's fine."
Am I better off today than I was in 2000? I think so. Do I credit the wisdom of my leaders for this? Not even.