Still, the SCHIP debate has been enlightening. In trying to make their case, Democrats rolled out spokeschildren including Graeme Frost, a Maryland 12-year-old who’d benefited from SCHIP. But the Frost family is, by all accounts, what we once would have called “middle class.” If they need federal health care to make ends meet, who doesn’t?
The problem may well be our perception of the economy. By most measures, things are good. The stock market is near a record high. Our economy adds jobs month in and month out. Eight million new jobs in the last four years.
Yet in the midst of the boom, Americans don’t feel wealthier. In fact, a recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Americans think our economy is in recession. A mere 51 percent don’t. Clearly the mainstream media’s relentless focus on bad economic news is taking its toll.
For example, it hammers away on the supposed collapse in the mortgage market, even though housing prices almost everywhere have soared in recent years, and any slowdown in growth now is probably a correction, not a catastrophe. Such examples fit the media’s storyline that many, if not most, Americans are just a paycheck away from disaster.
Yet the reality is we’ve never had it so good. We have more gadgets and conveniences than ever. What hinders us more than anything are the poor choices we often make.
As W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas noted in 2004, today’s Americans work less and can afford more than families in the 1970s did. “Hard data on work, leisure and consumption belie the image of overworked, overspent Americans,” they wrote in Investors Business Daily. “Americans aren’t working harder to afford the house, car and creature comforts usually associated with a middle-class lifestyle.”
In other words, we spend more these days because we choose to spend more, and because we have more to spend. Those are good problems to have.
We finally have a viable exit strategy from the war in Iraq. We’re going to win and come home. Too bad we haven’t yet fashioned a strategy for escaping the media’s relentless focus on bad news.