I passed this on the way to work today. A distress signal? A dire prediction? Someone's protest? Things can change so quickly. Somebody or something loosens the top screw and the whole thing pivots upside down in just the blink of an eye -- like the U.S. economic and political situations. Hwy 12&18, east of Madison, Wisconsin.
I saw the sign after reading today's Paul Krugman column "Winter of Our Discontent" about the recent Gallup report showing American economic pessimism at a record high -- despite the fact we're not even in a recession yet. Bush supporters say this is because the media don't report the good news. Krugman says it's because most working Americans have not shared in today's prosperity, and contrasts today's situation with that a decade ago.
One way to drive this point home is to compare the situation for workers today with that in the late 1990s, when the country’s economic optimism was almost as remarkable as its pessimism today. For example, in the fall of 1998 almost two-thirds of Americans thought the economy was excellent or good.We're sure not sharing in it today. I wonder if we'll be seeing more upside-down traffic signs.
The unemployment rate in 1998 was only slightly lower than the unemployment rate today. But for working Americans, everything else was different. Wages were rising, yet inflation was low, so the purchasing power of workers’ take-home pay was steadily improving. So, too, were job benefits, including the availability of health insurance. And homeownership was rising steadily.
It was, in other words, a time when Americans felt they were sharing in the country’s prosperity.