David Leonhardt's otherwise excellent column in the January 21st New York Times misses the mark in explaining why so many Americans are pessimistic about our short-term economic prospects.
Leonhardt does an exemplary job of comparing and contrasting today's travails with the last truly sizable recession in 1982. Despite the fact that the '82 downturn was more severe in almost every sense, Leonhardt reports that Americans were more bullish about an upturn than now.
He explains the disconnect in two ways: the economic expansion that just ended a few months back wasn't nearly as strong as the one in the 1970s that preceded the last big recession. Second, people today seem to realize we haven't yet bottomed out and that the worst is yet to come.
Here's the real reason everyone's so gloomy: it's the 24×7, non-stop negative stories from Leonhardt and his peers. It's the media, stupid! In my opinion, the media's a big reason why the downturn started in the first place and why we remain mired in despair.
I'm not suggesting they sugarcoat otherwise negative news. But the media's hyperbole, in combination with their round-the-clock need to feed the beast keeps Americans scared. It's the current day version of the 2002-'03 "heightened terrorist alerts." Remember how the initial ones just paralyzed people with fear? Leonhardt & Co. are doing the exact same thing today with their reportage. C'mon David. Cut us some slack and report something positive for once.