It's hard to believe it, but our post-2008 economic meltdown financial markets applaud mediocre financial numbers and a so-called recovery that has left many Americans holding their breath over the future value of their home and the stability of their job -- if they even have one. As an investor, I guess this is a great thing. But as a realist I find the entire concept outrageous.
This week we learned that the nation's GDP for the first quarter was even more anemic than the pitiful level it was predicted to be. Yes, the weather was intense and that could account for some sluggishness. But with housing stalled out and many areas of the country seeing unemployment rates drop at the expense of vanishing full-time and higher-paying jobs, we can't place the blame for our woes just on "Old Man Winter."
A majority of Americans say this nation is moving in the wrong direction when responding to opinion surveys. Most have not felt the warm glow of some grand economic boom. And many are not aware that Wall Street has been rewarding tepid economic news because it helps assure that the Fed will continue to pump funds into the marketplace, even if their infusions of "quantitative easing" are slowly declining.
The fact is that money has been pushed into the economy but not to the hard-working people who need cash. Home loans are still difficult to obtain. Small raises are major miracles in most households and bonuses are basically a relic of the past. And most folks don't have enough money to seriously enjoy the fruits of financial markets that seem to be on an endless trail upward.
The average working American is confused over their health care status and nervous about the future of their job. They can't imagine how their own children will ever enjoy a better quality of life than they once did, much less their parents, who likely enjoyed an easier life and retirement than they dare hope for now.
That is the cold, hard truth. We have one relatively small group of people who have resources, are in the right places and can continue to enhance their financial position. Meanwhile, we have a vast number of Americans who are living from paycheck to paycheck, have suffered huge financial setbacks and are still scared to death about what is in store for them around the corner.
To be fair to readers, many would say that I'm in that first group and couldn't possibly understand how most Americans feel about their shaky financial footing. But the truth is no one ever knows if the entire economy will take another dive, such as when then-President George W. Bush told leaders of Congress during the economic meltdown of late-2008 that "this sucker is going down."