Pessimistic, But Not Pessimistic Enough About America’s Future, in 2004. Are We Now Too Pessimistic?

Rereading a quote I posted on my blog in 2004, with hindsight I realize the pessimistic columnist was not pessimistic enough. In 2004, the US economy was doing much better than just four years later.

Americans are by nature an optimistic people, and yet we are currently, in November 2014, going through a round of pessimism. That is generally attributed to the lack of economic progress made by middle class Americans.

Ironically, in 2004, Americans were in an optimistic mood. They voted to re-elect President George W. Bush on the hope that the conflict in Iraq would get a lot better (in fact, it would get a lot worse), the economy would get better (it would in fact get a lot worse).

Americans went through economic hell from 2007 to 2012, with high unemployment, a shrinking labor market, discouraged workers, spiraling debt, and stagnant wages. It’s a good thing we don’t always know what the future holds. Perhaps if we were more realistically pessimistic in 2004, we could have battened down the hatches and prepared ourselves better for the economic storm to come.

“The facts facing the United States as George W. Bush and John Kerry joust for the presidency are too grim to be honestly discussed on the stump. No one wants to tell cheering potential voters that the nation has sunk so deep into a hole that it will take decades to extricate it. So the candidates are trying to outdo one another in expressions of sunny optimism.” — Bob Herbert in the New York Times, November 2004.

There is no exit strategy for U.S. troops in Iraq, he said. Afghanistan has been reclaimed by warlords and allies of terrorists, he noted. “There are not nearly enough jobs available for the millions upon millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans who want and desperately need gainful employment,” he wrote.

Nowadays, optimism may be more realistic than pessimism. This letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press from a Canadian confused by Americans’ reaction at the polls in 2014 makes some good points:

Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections. Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country’s adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6%, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money.

America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the Bush years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.

So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.

When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?

Richard Brunt

Victoria, British Columbia


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