Robert J. Samuelson writes in The Washington Post that even though the economy is improving in the U.S., Americans are not reassured. There seems to be a national mistrust and a loss of confidence in the future.
Middle class Americans have been hit especially hard. As Mr. Samuelson notes, “They feel poorer because they are poorer. They feel less secure because they are less secure.” Read more here how “The financial crisis and Great Recession have powerfully affected the national psyche — for the worse.”
America’s economy is improving, but the public mood is a lagging indicator. A Pew poll in late August found that Americans recognize that the job market has strengthened. Although 58 percent of respondents said “jobs are difficult to find, ” that was better than 65 percent in April and a peak of 85 percent in March 2010. Similarly, 33 percent of respondents said there are “plenty of jobs available,” up from 27 percent in April. But these positive developments barely dented public pessimism. A hefty 56 percent of respondents said their incomes were falling behind “the cost of living.” Only 5 percent said they were getting ahead. The rest were just “staying even.”
We have a peculiar prosperity. The economy is escaping the confines of the Great Recession; auto sales now exceed 16 million annually, the highest since 2006. But people don’t feel reassured. They’ve lost confidence in the future. Americans feel roughed up by the economy, and their fears aren’t fading quickly.
Some of this reflects the anger and anguish of the long-term unemployed and underemployed. Only 61 percent of experienced workers (at least three years with the same employer) who lost their jobs from 2011 to 2013 were re-employed by early 2014, reports the Labor Department. Naturally, they mistrust the future. But the effect extends well beyond this discouraged cadre.
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