When the government is lazy and dull,
It’s people are unspoiled;
When the government in efficient and smart,
It’s people are discontented.
The Economist has a couple of articles about the funk America is in. One concludes with this paragraph:
Americans have grown accustomed to extraordinary prosperity. Poor Americans today are more likely to have fridges, dishwashers and air-conditioning than average Americans were in 1971. Young voters have no memory of a serious recession, since the last one was in the early 1990s. Some do not even realise that cyclical downturns are normal. Only 18% of Americans think they are worse off than their parents were at the same age. But elections hinge on shorter-term concerns. Four-fifths of Americans say it is harder to maintain a middle-class lifestyle now than it was five years ago. That probably means the election is Mr Obama’s to lose.
Some of the explanation is in the penultimate paragraph:
The depth of gloom varies by age. The baby-boom generation (people aged 43-62) are glummer than the young or the elderly, according to Pew. Some 55% of boomers think it unlikely that their income will keep pace with the cost of living in the next year, compared with 44% of 18-42-year-olds and 43% of those aged 63 or more. Many boomers look after children and crumbling parents simultaneously.
Yes, the babies are crying again. Boo freaking hoo. We haven’t even had one quarter of negative growth yet, much less the two consecutive quarters required for a recession. The article quotes two boomers:
“We were always optimistic when we were young. We thought that every year, things would get better,” says Mrs Brende. But now: “The bubble has burst. I think my generation [will be] the last to see a great America.” Her husband agrees. Standards are falling in schools, he frets. Young people are finding it harder to get ahead. “We’ve all been so greedy for so long and it has caught up with us,” says Mrs Brende. She hopes that Mr Obama may be able to do something about the national malaise, but fears that “It’s too late. The slide is on.”
Asked about their own lives, however, the Brendes are rather more cheerful. “We’re OK, financially,” says Mrs Brende. She is a travel writer; her husband is a doctor. They live half the year in Missouri and half in Mexico. They have 24 grandchildren and another on the way. Life could be a lot worse.
Phil Graham was right — we’ve become a nation of whiners. When things are bad, people are too busy trying to live to bitch about the government. When things are good, and they actually are pretty good right now, people are discontented. When people’s biggest concerns are the Global Warming Myth and Animal Rights, life must be pretty damned good indeed.