Things don't suck as bad as you think, so Merry Christmas!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 10:06 PM | comments: 0

Right now, it seems the fear du jour is about foreigners and racial tension, which seems like a nice break from the fear about the economy. Wait, why are we scared of the economy again? What? It doesn't actually suck? But, Obama!

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I think Obama has been the most do-nothing president of my lifetime, and he has mostly squandered every opportunity he has had to be a truly transformative leader. I'm not saying he hasn't accomplished anything at all, or that the environment wasn't challenging, but the dude ended up being mostly hype and little substance.

So you might be wondering, "Gosh, if you're not an Obamafan, then why would you defend him?" If that's what you're wondering, then consider that I'm not defending the guy, but rather making note that the nonsense that people criticize him for is completely silly and often outside of the context of anything he did in the last six years. I mean, do you remember all of the stupid shit that came out of the 2012 campaign? For example:

  • Romney said he could bring unemployment down below 6% before the end of his term using no specific policy (source). It hit 5.9% in September, and is now down to 5.6% (source). It's the best job growth we've seen in 15 years (source). I don't think Obama had anything to do with it... this is the market at work.
  • All of the GOP candidates slammed Obama for the GDP growth at that time, where it was stagnating under 2% annually (source). Now it's closing in on 5% (source).
  • Remember Newt Gingrich? He said gas would end up being $10 under Obama, and he could make it $2.50 (source). As you're probably aware, gas is now under $2 in a lot of places (source: drive around). Anyone with even a basic understanding of economics knows that no president has anything to do with gas prices.

The point is that all of the talking points in politics tend to be nonsense. Government can certainly do things that materially affect the economy, and one can argue all day about whether or not such meddling is logically and morally a good idea, but the idea that any one president can make or break the country in economic terms is silly, if only because it's the congresscritters that need to actually pass the laws. Where presidents do the most damage, I would argue, is in foreign policy, but that's a different problem (and one with plenty of room for legitimate Obama criticism).

And what else about the economy? Auto sales are about to hit a level they haven't seen in 14 years (source). Charitable giving is up 9% over last year (source). All of the theme park companies (except SeaWorld Parks) are reporting record revenue, implying a whole lot of vacations.

Now, all of that said, I'm not naive enough to believe that there is no problem in terms of a shrinking middle class in the US. As a worker in a profession that pays exceptionally well, I can certainly thank the GOP (and their corporate sponsors, er, donors) for keeping my tax burden low, too. I remember reading earlier this year (found it!) about how screwed up our "bottom 90%" is compared to that of other countries, and it's staggering that we keep electing people who can't look around the world to see how it's going. It's a complicated problem that isn't getting better.

But the emotional optimist side of me doesn't accept that we're stuck with whatever we've got. I'm amazed to learn about small local companies that still roll like classic small businesses. Regional opportunities like North Dakota have unprecedented growth. The volume of jobs in the trades, again regional, is staggering (seriously, if you're a carpenter or plumber, they need you here). I think if people can be flexible, in what they're willing to do and where they can do it, things will get better. Maybe I'm being naive, but I can say with certainty that things don't get better when you're only negative.

And I think that's what I'm really getting at. Bitching about Obama or any politicians isn't going to make anything better. It might even obscure reality or opportunity.

Merry Christmas, and may the new year not suck even more than this year.


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