We keep hearing that the U.S. economy is roaring by every measure: employment up, inflation dropping, stock market up. (“Yay, it’s up!” Norm Macdonald once said, analyzing the stock market. “I don’t like when it’s down, that’s what I say. That’s my opinion.”)
And yet, the hand-wringing liberal pundits sonorously intone, Americans aren’t feeling the economic boon. “If the economy and labor market are so strong,” asks the USA Today columnist, “why aren’t more Americans feeling it?”
Could it possibly be because said “more Americans” are a bunch of cotton candy-bloated brats who have drastically misread (been miss-fed) American history such that they believe what pollsters say they should believe: That every American generation ought to do better than the previous generation, automatically? And that if they don’t find themselves water-skiing on weekdays (or at least working in what they call “dream jobs”), there must be some criminal political conspiracy afoot to give filthy poor minorities all the breaks?
In the mid-90s, when I was in my mid-20s, I wrote a monthly newsletter called The Murray Meaning. It went out to 50 subscribers, who paid $10/year to read my sophomoric stylings.
As a matter of fact, one of my most callow columns holds up the best. In January, 1995, I wrote that we ought to stop fretting about the Mexicans, who were pouring over the border, then as ever. Why stop worrying about them? “Too many of them are already here, and stop-gap measures … and more armed guards at the border are looking more and more feeble even as they become more radical.”
I proposed: “Let’s stop trying to keep the hungry Mexicans out, and maybe start making room for them in our economy by bailing out of the country’s hold some of its staler bilge water.”
By that, I meant upper-middle-class Americans.
“America was made by and for ambitious people, and can’t support too many un-ambitious people,” I wrote. “Instead of shutting the doors on desperate, hungry Mexicans who fit America’s ethos perfectly, we should be looking to throw the real American misfits—the contented, the ‘reasonably happy,’ and the ‘fairly well-to-do’—out.” (Never mind my logistically impractical scheme of “shipping whole suburban housing complexes, grass units and all, out of the country on the big flat tops of old aircraft carriers.”)
There are plenty of people and places in this country who have been forgotten, and can be forgiven for voting for any candidate who has the decency to look them in the eye while they lie. Inner-city neighborhoods whose progress over the last 70 years has been only nominal: from “slums” to “ghettos” to “high crime areas.” I spent a lot of time in a dying steel town when I was younger—(Middletown, Ohio, the place J.D. Vance self-servingly slandered in the phony book that led to his bogus ascension to the U.S. Senate)—and I often contemplate hollowed-out farming towns and places like this West Virginia town, where Bobby Kennedy made his promises, a couple of generations ago.
Lotta Americans have a right to be mad; lotta Americans have a right to be sad.
But I can’t help but think that many of the “more Americans” answering the phone for these pollsters have fine cars, spacious homes and regular vacations—but wouldn’t admit to “feeling” the strong economy until they had a life whose expected comforts and daily conveniences their parents could only have dreamed of.
Actually, they already do have that. And they’re still expecting the president of United States to give them more. Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what more your country could be doing for you.