mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Media to Americans: everything sucks...

Via this fatwallet thread comes this CNN article about how "average Americans" are suffering because of the economy, housing prices, high gas prices, and everything else.

Except few of the people are typical. The first two worked in the mortgage industry. Several others bought houses with subprime loans. A few had personal setbacks - health problems, divorce, Katrina. Some, one gets the impression, were trying to live well above their means. For the most part, it's a combination of bad luck and bad choices.

It's odd. Everywhere I keep reading about how the economy sucks. While I'm not going to be putting dubs on the Ranger anytime soon, I'm doing OK. Part of it is because I'm lucky enough to work in higher ed, a fairly stable business. We don't have the crazy highs of private industry, but we don't have the lows either. The people in the article who worked for mortgage companies were probably making mad bank during the time they worked there - my mom worked for one (she was laid off when they were bought out) and during the housing price run-up was making an insane amount of overtime.

Maybe I'm lucky, and everyone else is suffering. But while things have been better, and while I wish that gas was still a buck fidy and that my house had doubled in value since I bought it (my guess is it's probably dropped slightly), my 'hood isn't filled with abandoned houses or Escalades stopped in the middle of the road because they ran out of gas. My guess is most people are doing OK - that they may not have as much money as they would like, they may not have the big cushion of rising home equity, may be putting off big purchases and buying store-brand cookies, but they aren't going to be living in a cardboard box either.

Yes, there are people suffering, but there are always people suffering. Human tragedy occurs even when the economy is perfect. Yes, a poor economy does make it harder for them to bounce back, and there are probably more people worse off than there were a few years ago, when gas was $1.75 and everyone had a ton of home equity, but most people are still doing OK.

The other thing to remember is that there are always segments of the economy that are doing well while others are doing poorly. When I graduated college 5 years ago, I had trouble finding a job because IT was in the shitter - post-9/11, boom, while my Mom, who worked in the mortgage industry while interest rates were low and everyone was refinancing and buying, was doing well. Now IT is better off and people in the mortgage industry are looking for new careers.

One of the people in the CNN article laments that the presidential candidates are bickering with each other and not focusing on the real issue of the average American family (she also has 5 kids, which hardly makes her family average). And that's what annoys me most about the constant negativity about the economy - the cries for the government to do something. Nevermind that nobody seems to know what they should do, and that there's a good chance whatever they do will make things worse and/or have unintended consequences. Nevermind that downturns, recessions, and the like are a normal, if unfortunate, part of the business cycle, and that they eventually correct themselves. The more people hear about how much the economy sucks, the more they will pressure the government to do something, and the more likely the government will do something that costs taxpayers who were fiscally responsible a ton of money while not actually making things better.


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