The economy isn’t as bad as you think

I can’t shake this feeling that maybe all the woeful banter in the press and on the airwaves nowadays is just a new form of the cynicism that gave us Y2K.

You remember Y2K, don’t you? The world was supposed to come crashing down at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000 because of a hard-wired computer bug that couldn’t read dates.

We bought canned food, generators and bottled water, and made people like Gary North rich beyond belief by buying their survival guides. Well, we dealt with the problems then, and the new millennium went off without a hitch, save a car plant in Nebraska somewhere. We’re dealing with problems now, too. The weather is warming up, and gas prices are falling. Despite our “economic slump,” people are still spending, and unemployment is still below six percent; we used to call that “prosperity.” Now, we call it a recession. Nine candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have nine different solutions to the problem, more than one of them involving Dick Gephart’s socialized health care scheme. Never mind that the last president to push through social programs of that scope gave us double-digit unemployment and double-digit inflation. Oh yeah, inflation: that’s another problem we don’t have right now, right along with high interest rates. The only problem our country has with interest rates is that they have to go up in the future, because they’re at the floor right now.

This says something interesting about the complaints of the size of our budget deficit which is only a problem if it drives up interest rates. The president’s tax cut, this year costing $91 billion, has been blamed for the missing $349 billion surplus projected by the Congressional Budget Office for 2003. Even if tax cuts lower revenue by one dollar for every dollar cut, which they don’t, the numbers still don’t add up. The fact is, the remaining $225 billion of surplus, and all the deficit we’re seeing now, is because of the cost and economic impact of Sept. 11, the defense budget and the largest spending increases for things like education we’ve seen in history. Think Bush cut money for education? You obviously don’t remember the biggest hike in education spending in our nation’s history, co-authored by none other than Ted Kennedy. But I forget myself, he must be in on this “vast right-wing conspiracy” thing, too.

Here’s when the economy picks up, when we stop kidding ourselves and pretending like we live in the “worst economy since World War II.” We need to take responsibility for ourselves, and stop pretending like we can’t succeed because the world won’t let us. Bad things happen, but right now we’re missing two authoritarian regimes we had two years ago, we’re keeping more of the money we make, almost all of us still have our jobs and our biggest fear is a disease that, as I’ve heard, hasn’t killed a single person in the United States yet.

So, before you let Dick Gephart convince you that a perpetual $230 billion a year program costs less than the tax cut that won’t total one-sixth that cost over the same period, bust out your TI-89, crunch some numbers and get back to work. We should be cutting the increases in spending with these tax cuts, not increasing those rates. So put away your bottled water and stop stockpiling your prescription drugs. The recession wasn’t that bad, and it’s not getting worse; I’ll see you on the other side.