GRASSROOTS ECONOMIC REALITY

Economists have this to say to those of you who see your family’s economic fortunes on the decline: “Don’t be so glum, chum!”

Economists have this to say to those of you who see your family’s economic fortunes on the decline: “Don’t be so glum, chum!”

In a recent poll, only 19 percent of Americans said that our country is headed in the right direction, and a majority is pessimistic about the nation’s economy. This seems to baffle such high-powered thinkers as Alan Binder, a former member of the Federal Reserve board and consultant to some top Washington pols. Guru Binder has declared that “people are more sour about the economy than the data would seem to warrant.”

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Could someone buy this guy a clue? The problem with data, Mr. Binder, is that we can’t eat it, gas up our cars with it, or put it in the bank. Yes, the numbers might convince highly-paid eggheads like you that America has been booming. However, the incomes of the workaday majority of Americans have not even kept up with inflation. It’s not anxiety that’s fueling people’s glumness – it’s reality.

Binder should chauffeur out to just about any working class neighborhood in America, where he’d get an earful of reality. For example, Shari Joos, a 45-year-old mother of four living in Southeast, Ohio, would love to give the economist some data.

As she told the New York Times, she and her husband were pulling down $30,000 a year – until he got laid off from his factory job. Ms. Joos now works from 9:30 am to 1 pm at a school cafeteria, then drives to a Wal-Mart to put in a 2-10 pm shift at the deli counter. Her husband did find another job – driving a forklift for Wal-Mart. It pays less than he was making, plus it’s an hour’s drive from home, so the gas cost eats up his paycheck.

His shift ends at 2:30 am. “We never see each other,” says Ms. Joos. She adds, “We never even think of taking a vacation.”

That, Mr. Binder, is why people are a bit sour about the economy.

“A Revival Of 1992’s Glum Mood,” The New York Times, January 16, 2008

“Blue-Collar Jobs Disappear, Taking Families’ Way of Life Along,” The New York Times, January 16, 2008

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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