WASHINGTON - Americans are by nature an optimistic, hopeful people, but the persistently dismal economy of the Obama years has crushed that spirit to debilitating levels.
As President Obama plunges into his second, four year term, Americans are more depressed about the future than at any time since the Carter years, according to the Gallup Poll.
Only 39 percent of Americans rated the nation's climate as positive, the lowest level Gallup has recorded since the end of Jimmy Carter's single term in office in 1979. That's when inflation was soaring and the U.S. economy was in shambles.
Only 48 percent now say things will get better in the next four to five years -- also the lowest polling level since 1979.
As Obama was putting together a new administration, a Gallup poll for USA Today found that worried Americans were deeply divided over whether his second-term policies would be any more effective than the failed policies of his first term.
Just 35 percent said economic conditions will improve, while 42 percent said they would worsen. A gloomy eighty percent predicted that their taxes and the crime rate would rise. And three in four expected a "troubled year" abroad when U.S. power and prestige would decline.
Not exactly a bullish vote of confidence in a president who had just won a second term by a narrow popular vote and had not run on any specific economic agenda for the next four years.
More than four years ago, the biggest public concerns troubling most Americans were the economy, jobs and unemployment, dysfunctional government, the federal budget deficits and debt, and rising health care costs.
Today, according to the Gallup Poll, the "Big Five" problems facing the country that bother Americans the most: "1. The economy, 2. jobs and unemployment, 3. problems with the way government works, 4. the federal budget deficit, and 5. healthcare."
In other words, not much -- if anything -- has changed in the past four years. We face the same troubles now that we did then. Obama can't point to one of these issues and honestly say that he has fixed any one of them.
He said he would cut the budget deficit in half in four years, but it's skyrocketed to unprecedented trillion dollar levels in each of the last four.
He said he would reduce unemployment to 6 percent, but it remains at 8 percent nationally, and at double digit levels among African-Americans, Hispanics, and young adults and in a number of states.