April 3 (Bloomberg) -- More than 80 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, the most since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in the early 1990s, the New York Times reported.
So four out of five Americans think we are heading in the wrong direction as a country?
At first glance, this doesn't seem such a shock. After all, both President and Congress are enjoying record-setting low approval ratings, the subprime mortgage fiasco is throwing thousands of families out of their homes, and we are heading straight into the teeth of a recession. Aren't we?
That is certainly what the New York Times and CBS would like you to think - after all, we are coming into an election year and the current president is a Republican. In keeping with their overwhelmingly liberal views, they want to convince America of what they truly believe - that, thanks to our Republican president, we are going to hell in a handbasket and the only possible salvation is the immediate intervention of a liberal Democrat.
But the amazing thing is that the vast majority of panic and handwringing we see on the news every night is patently false.
Unemployment is up, yes indeedy - it has "spiked" from 4.8% to 5.1%. Batten down the hatches and open the breadlines; a whole three tenths of a percentage point, smaller than the margin of error!
If you take a quick peek at a historical graph, it's immediately apparent that unemployment is at record lows. In the recession of 1980, the unemployment rate was twice what it is now.
And as recessions go, that isn't that bad. The Great Depression had unemployment of 25% - now that would be cause for serious concern. Our unemployment rate of 5.1% is actually considered to be full employment.
There cannot ever be an unemployment rate of 0 unless we are all enslaved, because people are quitting their jobs and finding new ones all the time. Sure, there are layoffs and fewer new jobs; definitely, there are specific states such as Michigan which are in deep trouble. But there are other parts of the country which are booming. As a nation, we are in no real problems regarding employment.
How about home ownership? Yes, people are having their homes foreclosed - because they foolishly borrowed more money than they had, at terms they could not afford.
Have we not all heard of the housing bubble, driving prices of real estate up to ridiculous levels? It's good for prices to drop. They have to drop.
Otherwise, how can we hope for young people starting out to be able to afford their first homes? Take a look at another historical graph of home ownership rates, and we immediately see that they are dropping from record highs. We have now dropped down to rates last seen in 2003, far above the rates seen during the Clinton boom. No grounds for panic here.
What about the war? If you already believe the war is lost, we aren't going to be able to convince you otherwise in this article. Suffice to say that, as wars go, Iraq is a tiddler.
We've lost 4,000 soldiers in combat so far over four years. While we mourn each and every one of them, consider that during the Civil War, at the Battle of Antietam on September 17th, 1862, approximately 3,650 American soldiers were killed on that one day.
Crime? Down to lows not seen in forty years. Taxes? Down too, generally speaking. Teen pregnancies? Drug abuse? Corrupt politicians, even? All these things have been far worse in the past, mostly within living memory.
Are we, then, in a recession, and a bit of a rough patch? Of course we are - how could we not be?
When every news program talks about how terrible things are, reminds us of how we're being clobbered by our foreign competitors, and shows hate and vitriol spewing from every level of the political system, it would be a strong-stomached person indeed who wouldn't feel at all jittery. In our modern post-industrial consumer economy, where national financial health relies on people being comfortable going out and spending money that they may not have just at the moment, naturally the constant drumbeat of the "nattering nabobs of negativity" is perfectly able to talk fluff and nonsense into a very real recession.
Oh, let's not forget the one other thing that's down - the trust Americans have in the media that's been talking up the doom and gloom. Could there possibly be a connection?