wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: National

ACHENBLOG
Posted at 08:41 AM ET, 04/22/2011

An Earth Day pep talk

The top headline at the Times this morning sounds like something from The Onion:

“Nation’s Mood at Lowest Level in Two Years, Poll Shows.”

The story tells us:

“Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are now all but gone.

“Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month.”

Clearly, President Obama needs to give a “malaise” speech. He needs to go on national television and tell the American people they are suffering from a spiritual crisis. (Paging Pat Caddell!)

Here’s the dirty little secret about America, the world, and the future: Just about any country on earth would happily trade its problems for ours.

Life is good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You say: But we’re broke! All that debt! The S&P lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative,” whatever that means!

True, and we owe a bunch of that debt to the Chinese – but we also owe a big chunk of it to ourselves (having dizzying deja vu as I type this). Interest on the debt over time is going to be extremely expensive as interest rates inevitably rise and we find ourselves paying $800 billion a year just to service the many trillions in debt we’re carrying – you know I’ve been a hand-wringer on this from the get-go – but this is not actually going to break the bank. The bank has a lot of assets. Like: A country of 300 million people, many of whom are still very hard working and productive.

You say: No, many of whom are getting very old. And yes, that’s true. But if you want to talk about demographic issues, go look at China. Go look at Japan. Go look at European countries that aren’t coming close to replacement rate reproduction. We’re in much better shape.

You say: The jobless rate is terrible and the economy could have a double dip and the states are in terrible shape. Yeah, that’s true, but keep in mind that a lot of these troubles are inexorably associated with the good-time bubble-economy madness that preceded them. We’re living in the era of the Great Recession, but you might also call it the Great Correction. Much of our perceived affluence in the go-go years was built on illusions. That had to be squeezed out of the economy. It is not the god-given right of a humble bungalow in a nice neighborhood in a big city to sell for a million dollars. It sucks if you’re out of work because of the Wall Street shenanigans that brought down the economy and I’m not unsympathetic to that. But…well, tomorrow is another day. We’ll get through this.

You say: But we’ve mortgaged our children’s future. I say: Just watch, they’ll do fine. They’ll live longer and have more money than we do.

You say: But we’re living in a technological world that is out of control and is succeptible to these awful Black Swan events that scare the bejabbers out of us! Yes, true enough, and I’ve been on the beware-the-Black-Swan tour for the last few weeks as I try to retail the Deepwater Horizon story. But if the world can survive the horrors of the 20th century it can probably survive whatever the 21st will throw at us (acknowledging, however, that past results to do not guarantee future returns, etc.). Call me crazy, but I’m an optimist.

You say: But what about the steady destruction of the world’s environment, and climate change caused by our profligate extraction and burning of fossil fuels? And my answer is – um, I have a headache now, can we discuss this later?

By  |  08:41 AM ET, 04/22/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company