Seems Americans are pretty cranky lately. Actually, more than just cranky — angry, fed up, discouraged and yes, even depressed.
In a recent national public opinion poll, 76 percent of voters questioned do not believe their children will have a better life than they do. There’s much more pessimism throughout the poll.
President Obama’s approval rating is at an all-time low of 40 percent, but he looks downright popular compared to the 14 percent approval rating for Congress. The poll showed Americans hold congressional Republicans in lower regard with 54 percent unfavorable and 19 percent favorable; Democrats enjoy a somewhat healthier 46 percent disapproval/31 percent approval rating. On top of that, 33 percent of respondents want incumbents to lose.
In other bleak results:
62 percent are unhappy with the state of the economy.
64 percent are displeased with the USA’s role in the world.
70 percent believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
A whopping 79 percent are dissatisfied with the entire political system.
Interestingly, these horrendous numbers, some of the worst in history, come not during the middle of the recession but rather in the midst of the recovery. There seems to be little nexus between the improving economic indicators and the way the respondents felt. There’s actually been a lot of good news about the economy, but no one is really touting it. I’m not sure many Americans are aware of it, or at least they’re not feeling it. Let’s look at some of the numbers that depict some positive national economic trends.
We’ve had 46 straight months of job growth with more than 200,000 jobs created during each of the last six months.
A total of 9.3 million jobs have been added since January 2010 — a drastic improvement over the losses of the previous years.
Our national unemployment numbers have steadily declined from 10 percent in October 2009 to 6.1 percent in June. We are at the lowest unemployment rate since September 2008. Florida is tracking the national figures pretty closely with a 6.2 percent unemployment rate in June.
We even had a surprisingly strong rebound in our gross domestic product, which increased at an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter after decreasing 2.1 percent in the first quarter — a 6.1 percent swing. Real GDP is the output of goods and services produced in the U.S. The stock market has been bullish, with the Dow Jones reaching an all-time high above 17,000 in July. Interest rates are low to help households and businesses finance new spending.
Consumer confidence is up 4.5 points in July to 90.9, showing an increase for the third consecutive month. It’s at its highest level since October 2007. Florida’s consumer confidence is almost as high, registering at 84.
Yet, Americans are down. They’re depressed. They’re unhappy.
In other parts of the world, people clamor to come to the U.S. to escape oppression, poverty, crime, religious intolerance and genocide. We Americans take a lot of our freedoms for granted. We wake up in the morning free to come and go as we please. We are free to practice the religion of our choice without fear of prosecution. We have the right to free speech and a free press to act as watchdog over our government, unlike in Russia where news is controlled by the government.
While Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers are astronomical, he has complete control of what information or disinformation is disseminated. Nice gig for him, but not how we operate in the United States — thank God.
Perhaps the reason Americans are pessimistic has more to do with perception than reality as it pertains to the economy and our place in the world. Take another look.
In the words of William Arthur Ward, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
So cheer up America. It’s time to adjust our sails.
Paula Dockery served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Lakeland Republican.