- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008



America’s sky is falling. A Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll last month found 78 percent of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Of course, almost 4 in 5 Americans think the country is heading to heck in a hand basket. The news media are stuck in one gear on reporting economic news - Armageddon.

As Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters so aptly noted, many journalists are besotted with Barack Obama. That makes them open to any bad news that can be tacked onto Republican George W. Bush.

But it’s more than liberal bias. Journalists are convinced America’s economy is collapsing and going down the tube because our industry is collapsing and going down the tube. So if you say the economy is “slowing,” as Republican presidential candidate John McCain has said, you’re insensitive. If you are in touch, you are supposed to ignore last year’s fourth-quarter growth in gross domestic product of six-tenths of a percent and this year’s first-quarter growth of 1 percent because that belies the belief that the U.S. economy is in recession.

Remember the “misery index” - the combined rate of unemployment and inflation that peaked at 22 percent under Jimmy Carter? Forget it. Not enough misery. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had to throw in extra statistics to inflate the Bush misery index because the combined unemployment and inflation rate was about 8 percent.

Lately, news stories report on American fears about inflation, without reporting the rate of inflation. It’s about 4.2 percent. With the unemployment rate at 5.5 percent, the “misery index” is around 10 percent.

Yes, gasoline prices are up. Granted, higher prices at the pump are forcing some Americans to cut back and have had a ripple effect throughout the economy. After years of arguing that greener energy policies don’t hurt the economy, but instead create jobs, Democrats and talking heads should be cooing about the new economic horizons unfolding.

The housing bubble burst. A lot of people - including this writer - have seen the value of their homes drop, and those who have to sell quickly won’t get the price they expected two years ago. Is there anyone who did not think that eventually housing prices would deflate? Is there a new law of economics that says: What goes up cannot come down?

The boost in the foreclosure rate to close to 2.5 percent shows the raw side of a market correction made worse by shabby lending practices that lured some people to buy homes they could not afford. Some families will experience the heartbreak of losing those homes, but also some families who had been priced out of the market now can reach for that dream. Thanks to improved federal regulations, they stand a better chance of holding onto it.

Yes, there is bad news. The stock market is down and the housing market likely won’t begin to bounce back this year. The federal deficit is expected to hit $400 billion this year.

Worse yet, Washington has promised Social Security and Medicare benefits without paying for them. As a result, according to former Comptroller General David Walker, every American owns a $175,000 share of Uncle Sam’s unfunded liabilities.

Health care costs have soared - and that has made it more expensive for businesses to operate and governments to provide services. It doesn’t matter that people with cancer and other serious illnesses stand a better chance of beating the disease, and enjoy a higher quality of life. Americans expect health-care costs to rise more slowly, even if they are getting considerably more effective care. And it doesn’t help when some adults have to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet, but don’t qualify for health-care insurance at either.

Do I worry about where this country is headed? Who doesn’t? But what concerns me is that Americans keep expecting more goodies from their government - with someone else always paying for it.

The other thing that worries me: We have no idea how good we have it.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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