In one sector where prices have been dropping, of course, the trend is taken as cause for panic: home sales. But what is bad for home sellers is good for home buyers. Most of us are both, which makes the whole phenomenon pretty much a wash.
A major cause of the misperception, though, is President Bush's sagging popularity. It's clear that many people let their discontent with the president color their view of everything. If he is failing to win the war in Iraq or curb illegal immigration, we assume he must also be coming up short on the economy.
The polls suggest that some people won't acknowledge anything good here lest it suggest competence on the part of a president they can't stand. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, 43 percent of Republicans say the economy is fair or poor, but 79 percent of Democrats take that view. "People are giving partisan responses," says public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
This is an error on two counts. The first is that even if George W. Bush were completely incompetent on matters related to our money, which he is not, presidents don't have that much power over the fortunes of the economy. The second is that it's entirely possible for a president to handle one area of policy badly and another one well -- just as a baseball player can be a star at the plate and a klutz in the field.
For a variety of reasons, we just can't be happy with our current prosperity. When things eventually change, trust me: We may not miss Bush, but we will really miss the good times.