- - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Summer signals the arrival of happier days — more sun, more fun and more all-around good vibes. It isn’t officially summer yet, but it’s close enough to taste. Memorial Day is behind us and that means it’s a good time to measure “the mood of America.”

The gold standard of well-being, in the reminder that “it’s the economy, stupid,” points ever upward. The gross domestic product, the reliable GDP, of President Trump’s business-boosting economy is close to returning to the 3 percent growth rate, where it finished last year before it dipped slightly during an unusually cold winter.

Hypothetically, and “hypotheticals” are always fun, if Mr. Trump were to face off against Barack Obama in a footrace, with the winner determined by comparative rates of the GDP, the business president would quickly lap the famous community organizer, whose two left feet were no help in running the economy. He averaged only snail-like 1.5 percent GDP over eight years. Stupid is as stupid does.

The quickening pace of growth has driven the unemployment rate into the ground. At 3.9 percent, almost anyone who wants a job can walk a city block and encounter someone who wants to hire him (or her). After a decade when workers fleeing the pink slip would work for a shrinking paycheck, the feeling of being appreciated is refreshing. Millions of Americans gave up job-hunting, and now it’s a buyer’s market.

With rising productivity there’s renewed optimism about the future. A Gallup Poll in April found the number of those who believe that the young will live better than their parents rising to 60 percent. For the legions of Americans who came of age when the American dream seemed as unreal as Greek mythology, the figure is outstanding, the highest in 10 years.

To be sure, there are a few clouds no bigger than the president’s hand gathering on the horizon. American families love to hit the open road after Memorial Day and a rise in global demand for oil, and uncertainty over the impact of Iran’s behavior in the wake of the U.S. pullout from the Iran Nuclear Deal, has upset oil markets. A sudden surge of demand for gasoline pushed the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded to $2.97 on the eve of the holiday weekend, the highest in four years, according to the American Automobile Association.

Shock at the gasoline pump is prompting some Americans to put off a road trip for a money-saving “staycation.” When Americans don’t drive, a ripple hits the businesses that cater to people on the move, like restaurants and hotels. Airline tickets, which travelers often purchase months in advance, are not yet affected by such uncertainty, and fares average 7 percent less expensive this summer than last.

Man shall not live by bucks alone, of course, and few sights signal the advent of summer, with a third of the baseball season behind us, like the coming spectacle of pro football players sweating in the sun, melting off the winter pounds in preparation for the fall campaign. But the appetite for professional football has been sated by the scandal of players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial injustice at the hands of law enforcement. Everybody wants racial justice, or should, but almost nobody likes to see the traditions of patriotism trashed. The owners of the teams, wanting to prevent a replay of last season, when fans expressed their anger at the box office and in a decline in television ratings, will now require players to “stand and show respect for the flag.” Or they can keep their disrespect in the locker room.

All Americans are entitled to free speech, and that includes players who show their disrespect for the game that has rewarded them with fabulous wealth. Fans are free to go elsewhere with their entertainment dollars, too, as they did last year when the league’s television ratings declined by 12 percent. Recrimination is a sport that anyone can play.

The most riveting blood sport of all won’t play out on a ball field, but on the playing ground of politics. This is the scrimmage that shades nattering over the culture and the games people play. As the summer fades, the leaves are sure to turn, and so, too, the nation’s mood. Enjoy while we can.

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