Recently Bill Clinton, at the British Labour Party's annual conference, delivered what the Times of London described as a "relaxed, almost rambling" and "easy anecdotal" speech to an enthralled audience of leftists eager for evidence of American disappointments. Never a connoisseur of understatement, Clinton said America is "now outsourcing college-education jobs to India."
But Clinton-as-Cassandra should not persuade college students to abandon their quest for diplomas: The unemployment rate among college graduates is 2 percent.
Clinton is always a leading indicator of "progressive" fashions in rhetoric. And every election year -- meaning every other year -- brings an epidemic of dubious economic analysis, as members of the party out of power discern lead linings on silver clouds.
"Worst economy since Herbert Hoover," said John Kerry in 2004, while that year's growth (3.9 percent) was adding to America's GDP the equivalent of the GDP of Taiwan (the 19th-largest economy). Nancy Pelosi vows that if Democrats capture Congress they will "jump-start our economy." A "jump-start " is administered to a stalled vehicle. But since the Bush tax cuts went into effect in 2003, the economy's growth rate (3.5 percent) has been better than the average for the 1980s (3.1) and 1990s (3.3). Today's unemployment rate (4.6 percent) is lower than the average for the 1990s (5.8) -- lower, in fact, than the average for the last 40 years (6.0). Some stall.
Economic hypochondria, a derangement associated with affluence, is a byproduct of the welfare state: An entitlement mentality gives Americans a low pain threshold -- witness their recurring hysterias about nominal rather than real gasoline prices -- and a sense of being entitled to economic dynamism without the frictions and "creative destruction" that must accompany dynamism. Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase "good news" an oxymoron, even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs.
The Jack No. 2 well, in deep water 170 miles southwest of New Orleans, recently discovered a field with perhaps 15 billion barrels of oil -- a 50 percent increase in proven U.S. reserves. This news triggered a gusher of journalistic gloom: More oil means more woe -- a reprieve for that enemy of humanity, the internal combustion engine, and more global warming, more air pollution, more highway fatalities, more suburban sprawl.