Economic numbers don't always add up

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Following a friendly discussion with a pro-Obama voter recently, I came to the conclusion we've entered the age of the New Economy.

I was told in glowing terms just how the economy was improving.

Unemployment, gasoline prices, interest rates, home foreclosures and a whole host of improving metrics were touted with great pride.

Despite some troubled times, I was told how far better we are faring than Europe.

I wanted to say it reminded me of a man drowning in 8 feet of water instead of 20 feet. Either way, he drowns!

But I refrained. And I listened.

Perhaps it's human nature or perhaps it's uniquely American. But we're a nation of numbers.

Despite some who would want us to think otherwise, we like to keep score.

But we've reached a point where two people can view the exact same numbers and arrive at starkly different conclusions.

And as our national polarization expands - and it is - we'll continue this odd path of dueling realities.

Viewed in one perspective, unemployment is improved from the 9-10 percent range it was not too long ago. Viewed another way, joblessness remains a national disgrace and a certain sign of policy failure.

Bank loan rates are much more affordable than in past times. But economic uncertainty is so pervasive, that few are willing to gamble on increased debt regardless of the interest rate.

But still we take our political stand based on spoon-fed numbers by faceless bureaucrats, as if those numbers somehow define our status and position.

We're asked to celebrate smaller losses to our retirement accounts because, but for the federal saviors, it could be much worse.

We're asked to ignore the massive failures in our federal spending because, but for federal intervention, it could be much worse.

And despite logic and common sense, we're asked to view the explosion in food stamp usage in a positive light because it's simply a sign that more people are receiving the benefits they so richly deserve.

It's simply another federal success story.

We've entered the era of the New Math.

Here's how it works.

Believe what we tell you to believe, ignore your personal concerns.

And above all, don't worry about silly numbers.

The Fed is keeping score.

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