It seems Americans are pretty cranky. Actually, more than just cranky. They are angry, fed up, discouraged and, yes, even depressed.
In a national public opinion poll, conducted Aug. 6 by The Wall Street Journal and NBC, 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 a 19 percent favorable rating and a 54 percent unfavorable rating. Democrats enjoy a somewhat healthier 31 percent approval rating and a 46 percent disapproval 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, and 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 economic recovery. There seems to be little nexus between improving economic indicators and the way the respondents felt.
There has 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 over 200,000 jobs created during each of the last six months. All in all, a total of 9.3 million jobs have been added since January 2010 — a substantial 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 (GDP), which increased at an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter of 2014 after decreasing by 2.1 percent in the first quarter — a swing of 6.1 percentage points. Real gross domestic product is the total output of goods and services produced in the United States.
The stock market has been bullish, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching an all-time high in July, exceeding 17,000.
Interest rates are low, helping both 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 are clamoring to come to the United States to escape oppression, poverty, crime, religious intolerance and genocide.
In Iraq, religious factions have been fighting each other for control. Although some Christians threatened with death by ISIS radicals have been rescued, many remain trapped on a mountain in scorching weather with no food or water.
In Syria, civil war and genocide are the daily reality.
In Israel and Gaza, bombing and on-again, off-again ceasefires dominate their existence as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues.
And in Ukraine, their independence is being threatened by rebel aggression that could lead to Russian annexation.
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 persecution. We have the right to free speech and a free press to act as a watchdog over our government, unlike in Russia, where the government controls the news.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers are astronomical, he has complete control of what information or disinformation is disseminated. Nice gig for him, but it’s 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 is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.