The Source of Our Economic Stress

AmericanMonetaryAssociation.orgOur recent post on which counties around the United States were mired in the worst level of economic stress begs the follow up question: What are they so stressed about? The source material for the original post was collected by the Associated Press, which also contributed the follow up information that high unemployment and the foreclosure mess are to blame.

It looks to us like the American Dream has fallen on hard times lately.

The plain truth of the matter is that citizens of the United States of America are simply not accustomed to unemployment rates lingering near 10%. That’s rarified air supposedly reserved for socialist economies pieced together by dunder-headed politicians. So what does that say about the current bunch in charge of our economy? It’s been almost 30 years since joblessness has imposed its will on the populace to this extent, and there is no doubt that the continuing inability of a large segment of eligible workers to find jobs vexes them. Federal reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent comments that it could take five years for the country to return to a historically normal rate of about 6% didn’t boost any spirits.

There’s not much left to be said about this topic that hasn’t already been beaten to death. A primary presupposition of achieving the American Dream is home ownership, but the massive (and still unraveling) foreclosure mess yanked that ladder right out from beneath families who thought they had it made. To be forced back into the rental market after “owning” a home must be especially demoralizing. Add to that a work environment so shaky that even the most secure of positions have occupants looking over their shoulders for the proverbial ax to fall.

Keep in mind that Americans have historically been galvanized to action when tough times arrive, rolling up their sleeves and doing what was needed to be done to turn their circumstances around. Despite what one might think of his politics, President Franklin Roosevelt spurred the war industry into heroic existence with his Fireside Chats, and kept us motivated for the long haul. Reagan’s steely capitalistic resolve pulled us out of the mess the one-term Carter administration left behind. But what is Mr. Obama doing to set the stage for recovery? He’s neither inspirational nor exhibiting qualities of leadership.

Americans don’t ask for much, but a leader who at least acts like he knows what he’s doing would be nice. High unemployment. High foreclosure rate. No end in sight. No wonder we’re stressed.

The American Monetary Association Team

Flickr / creativedc

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