Last week I posted a story about a group of oldsters who sit around the local McDonald’s every morning and do nothing but complain about their poor, unfortunate lives. Everything costs too much, everything’s a pain in the ass, nothing’s worth a damn – the usual breakfast topics for the population over the age of 65.
Meanwhile, they all live in homes that they finished paying off years ago, they all buy bottled water at the supermarket because they know ‘for a fact’ that tap water is no good, it takes forever to get their income tax refund check and the cost of everything keeps going up.
They remind me of my late father-in-law who blamed every catastrophe he suffered through life on his ‘dirty, rotten. Stinking, lousy luck!’ Meanwhile, he was never sick a day in his life until he died when he was 80, he always had a decent-paying job, his three children all went to college and became professionals, and he owned his house located on a clean and quiet Brooklyn street.
But everything was always fucked up and if you want to hear how fucked up things really are, I invite you to have a cup of coffee with the breakfast club which meets every weekday morning in the Mickey Ds near me.
After I posted this story I got all kinds of responses from readers, most of whom told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about because all of them were experiencing real-life problems that no matter what they did, wouldn’t go away.
One of my readers told me that she got a monthly check for a thousand dollars but thanks to an ongoing bout with cancer, her monthly expenses exceeded five grand. Another one said that I must still be under 65, because he was 71 and when I got older I would see how bad things really were.
I happen to be 79 years old.
What’s going on? How come with an unemployment rate in my neck of the woods between 2.2% and 3.3% everyone believes that the economy is so fucked up? How come when the local convenience store chain is paying $95,000 plus bennies for guys to drive their gasoline-delivery trucks, they can’t find anyone to take those jobs? How come the Dow just hit its all-time highest mark but everybody knows that the recession I just about to start?
In other words, how is it that the prevailing mood about daily life in the country is so at variance with the way things really are? The latest I hear is that the GOP is going to ask voters next year whether they had it better or worse before took over from Trump.
Are they serious? We had a national population walking around in 2020 who were afraid they catch the ‘Chinese flu’ or were still hoping their employer would call them back to work, or that hopefully their kids would now be able to return full-time to school.
But meanwhile, things are really worse right now, right?
And don’t get me wrong. No matter how good things are for just about everyone, if you happen to be someone who for whatever reason can’t make ends meet, or can’t pay your latest utility bill, or have to out together some money to bail your no-good cousin out of jail, obviously all the numbers about the economy and that $2.99 gasoline price (which is .80 cents less than the adjusted 1980 price) won’t mean a goddamn thing.
But the bottom line is that I don’t remember a time when the general mood of the country was so much at variance with the way things are for the majority of the folks. And I have to think that this gap between how we feel about the country versus the reality of everyday life is due to two things that have fundamentally changed.
First and foremost, we have two very distinct and competing digital environments that have decided to compete by promoting negative news and negative views. You don’t get people to watch your TV broadcast or subscribe to your podcast if all you tell them is that things are all right.
Remember the saying, ‘if it bleeds it leads?’ Try this one on for size: ‘when it’s bad, people get mad.’ Nobody sitting around the breakfast club at McDonald’s ever has anything good to share with the rest of the gang.
Second and perhaps even more important, we have two national political parties led by two individuals – Trump and Joe – neither of whom ever has a smile on their faces. When was the last time that Trump ever cracked a grin? When was the last time that Joe let out a laugh rather than a cough?
I was no fan of Ronald Reagan, that’s for sure, but this guy had a way of smiling, saying things would be okay, and everyone either believed him or at least his calm and relaxed demeanor took the wind out of those pissed-off sails.
And don’t make the mistake of underestimating how the angry look on Trump’s face might just be enough to get him sitting behind the real Resolute desk again in 2025.
If we we’ve learned anything, it’s that good news is boring, bad news is fun.