Abraham Lincoln acknowledged in his 1863 proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving that it was hard for many Americans to be thankful "in the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity."
While he sought the Almighty's blessings for the care of "all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners and sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged," there were reasons to be grateful, too, he said. For the nation's growing industry, agricultural abundance, and a "large increase of freedom" he foresaw in the years to come.
Nearly a century and a half later, America is in the midst of yet another era of great political division worsened by a recession of unusual length, breadth and severity. And an executive and legislative government perceived by many to be dysfunctional, incompetent, or worse.
Our nation is burdened with a crushing $15 trillion debt and hundreds of trillions more in unfunded liabilities that threaten future generations with fewer opportunities and a lower standard of living.
We are heading into the fourth year of a weak, jobless economy that has been unable to shake off its lethargy as easily as it has in the past. Twenty-six million of us are either unemployed or so underemployed that they cannot make ends meet.
Poverty levels have shot up to over 15 percent of the population, hunger is a growing, stark reality in our land, and, for the first time since the Great Depression, people here and abroad are talking about an America in decline.
The Gallup Poll regularly monitors the national mood and economic health of the country in its daily tracking polls and its numbers paint a disturbing picture on this Day of Thanksgiving. Here's what they told us this week:
-- The Economic Condition of the Country:
Excellent-to-Good: 11 percent.
Poor: 52 percent.
-- Economic Outlook:
Getting Better: 22 percent.
Getting Worse: 73 percent
-- Life Evaluations:
Thriving: 50 percent
Struggling: 46 percent.
This is why American have grown a great deal more pessimistic about the direction of the economy and are understandably tightening their belt if they can still afford one.
The Conference Board, a private economic research group, reported recently that consumer confidence fell in October to its lowest point since the depths of the Great Recession in March of 2009.