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Why Are We All So Pissed Off?


              I don’t often find myself agreeing with anything that Paul Krugman has to say, but his Monday op-ed in The (failing) New York Times about why Americans continue to believe that the economy is lousy raised some interesting issues which deserve to be discussed.

              What Krugman sees as something of a paradox is the fact that unemployment is under 4%, inflation has basically disappeared and yet a healthy majority of Americans tell pollsters that the economy is still in lousy shape even though these same respondents admit that their personal financial situation is just fine.

              He cites a Quinnipiac poll which found that in both Michigan and Pennsylvania, only 35% said the national economy was ‘good’ but 61% said their personal financial situation was in good shape.

              And we’re talking about two swing states where the results will probably determine who wins the Presidential election and right now Trump holds a slim lead.

              If you’re Joe Biden, what do you do to respond to this remarkable example of what pollsters refer to as ‘cognitive dissonance,’ which is a fancy way of saying that what people believe has nothing to do with what’s really going on?

              Krugman says: “it’s important to understand that the political challenge facing Democrats is not that they have to overcome a bad economy. What they need to overcome instead is the false narrative that the economy is doing badly.”

              But where does this ‘false narrative’ come from? It can’t just be coming from Trump because it’s a belief held not just by Republicans, but by Democrats too. And in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, if enough Democrats are disposed to blame Biden for a lousy economy, this could tip things the other way and Trump will be taking the oath again on January 20, 2025.

              I can only speak from personal experience, but something happened yesterday in a brief moment which made me begin to wonder about how and why so many people seem to think that the general economy is for shit even if they are doing okay or better than okay.

              I had to make an appointment in the afternoon, so I rushed through lunch by getting on the drive-thru at McDonald’s and ordering two cheeseburgers and a diet coke. The kid who took my money didn‘t know how to work the cash register, the two little cheeseburgers were pieces of semi-raw meat.

              Together, this feast cost me $7 bucks and change. And while I have more money than I know what to do with, it wasn’t that long ago that this same meal at this same McDonald’s would have cost me $4.75.

              And I think my experience yesterday is now fairly typical in an economy which is so strong that jobs at McDonald’s are going to kids who can barely read and write, and take-out food is both expensive and lousy because there simply aren’t enough steers out West to meet the demand.

              So, if someone calls me up and asks me how things are doing, if I get on the phone after going through the drive-thru at the local Mickey D’s, I’m probably going to say that I’m fine but everything around me is going to shit.

              Several months ago, I clipped the side of my car against a wall and needed to replace the outside panel on my right front door. It took my dealer 5 weeks to get the part because, as he explained to me, ‘all our orders for parts are delayed.’

              Finally, and here’s the most important issue when it comes to what Krugman is saying about what we need to do to make people understand that generally speaking, things aren’t so bad.

              My sense, and I’m just playing it by ear, is that even though the Pandemic is over and things health-wise seem to be back under control, the legacy of a once-in-a-century health crisis is that people are just pissed off. And you don’t need some kind of objective facts thrown in your face that will remind you that things ain’t so bad.

              We’re pissed off just because we’re all pissed off, and the real question is this: will Donald Trump will be able to take advantage of our pissed off feelings in four or five battleground states?

             

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