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Should the United States fund the service program AmeriCorps? President Obama would increase its budget. Rep. Paul Ryan would eliminate federal funding for the program.

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Posted at 07:45 PM ET, 08/18/2011

The Dow and the disappointment economy


Looking up?(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) (Mario Tama)

Everything's down.

The Dow is down. All the gains from the week are wiped out after Wednesday’s 420-point drop.  

Obama’s poll numbers are down. But most of all, our optimism is down. A Gallup poll Thursday found that our satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States is a mere 11 percent — just four points higher than the lowest ever. The lowest was in October 2008.

I know these things come and go. It's like the weather. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. And no one really knows why it does what it does, but maybe it would help if we sacrificed something. Like future generations' standard of living, or a goat.

This may not be a depression, but we're depressed.

America doesn't seem to want to get out of bed in the morning. "Go away," it hisses, pulling the blinds down. "I enjoyed the 90's and early 2000's a bit too much, and now I would like to recess here quietly with a damp towel on my forehead."

"Get up! Create jobs! Raise the debt ceiling!" people tell it.

"I don't wanna," it mutters. "Can't the robots do it?"*

*If I make 3 more jokes about Foxconn, I think the robots are obligated to send me a t-shirt, right?

America pretends to be asleep when candidates approach it, even when they say alarming things about Ben Bernanke’s treason. "Don't come back unless you bring Chris Christie," it mutters. "He seems jolly, and I am not saying that as a comment on his weight."

We can’t even get a good grumble going about Barack Obama’s vacation! Things must be dire. Complaining that the president vacations has been a national hobby since at least the Coolidge era. That’s the whole point of being the party in opposition — so you can complain that the president is slacking off while the country struggles! Sure, there’s a little whining. But it feels so tepid!

Is this really is the unhappiest we've ever been, except for those dark days in 2008?

Surely things were worse in the 70s. The hair was worse. The music was – well, at least Katy Perry hadn't tied Michael Jackson's record of number-one songs from a single album, mainly because Michael Jackson's record did not exist yet, and neither did Katy Perry. Maybe the 70s did have their qualities. The Star Wars films were coming out, the good ones, not the prequels where George Lucas replaced Darth Vader with an automaton incapable of acting.

But how about the 80's?

Were we really having such a better time? I guess Ronald Reagan tended to have a bracing effect on people, and he did run an ad campaign reminding America that it was morning again and time to get collectively out of bed and go Do Great Things Like We Used To Do.

I understand that this hasn’t been our day, or week, or month, or, heck, even our year. But surely things are still better than they used to be. Sure, we talk up the 90’s — we’re bringing back the cartoons and TV shows as we speak — but how happy could we possibly have been in an era with very limited access to Internet pornography?

Surely life is better now! Apple exists! We have smarter phones! We are healthier — well, no, actually, our life expectancy has dropped. But on the bright side, we have to spend less of that brief time on Earth waiting for things to download.

Yet we’re curiously nostalgic. It’s not just the 90’s that are back. It’s the entire Past. On Twitter, everyone is talking about things #iwishtheywouldbringback. Aside from the question "Who's They?" this probably means that the present time is doing something wrong.

You know things are bad when it’s a national hobby to be nostalgic for the 60’s, an era we apparently celebrate for its uncomfortable undergarments, glass ceiling, and rampant alcoholism, if Mad Men is to be believed.

“I could use a drink now,” America says, watching the Dow sag. “But my office policy forbids it. Get Don Draper in here!”

Maybe this really is the least optimistic and satisfied we’ve ever been, once you consider attitude inflation. You know what I mean — it happens constantly, on Facebook walls and in Twitter feeds across the country. Fitzgerald said that an exclamation mark was the equivalent of laughing at your own joke. If so, we are constantly convulsed in deranged fits of hysterical laughter! “Things are going GREAT!!!!!” we post, jauntily. “C’mon, Dow, get it together!!!!1!! Oh well, going to go watch Mad Men!!!!!”

When you’re flat on your back, there’s nowhere to look but back.

By  |  07:45 PM ET, 08/18/2011

Tags:  DOW, economy, Mad Men, nostalgia

 
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