Sunny Side Up

This commentary aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered on December 26, 2007. You can listen to it here.

I know the economic news doesn’t seem very cheerful these days. But a lot of it is blown out of proportion, stories and subplots designed to scare us, told by politicians and people with their own agenda. Let’s not let them push us around whether they’re on the right or the left, Republican or Democrat.

They always tell us the sky is falling. That’s the minimum standard for getting our attention in a busy news cycle. But remember that the sky usually doesn’t fall. We just move on to the next scare.

So my New Year’s wish for America is that we be skeptical of falling sky stories and that as a result we all sleep better.

Immigrants aren’t going to ruin America. Our culture is stronger than you think. It’s a culture born of immigrants. They’ve always been part of the great American stew of language, food, music and hard work. And the kids do better than their parents.

The subprime mortgage crisis isn’t going to ruin the economy. After years of appreciation, falling housing prices aren’t a disaster. Home ownership will remain near or at an all-time high.

China isn’t going to steal our prosperity or our jobs. They can’t. If they keep selling us toys with lead paint, we’ll stop buying them. Meanwhile, they play Santa Clause and the American economy keeps creating more jobs.

The middle class isn’t dying out. Real median family income has been growing steadily for the last 30 years. Unemployment is still below 5% and has been that way for a while.

The falling dollar means very little. It certainly doesn’t threaten the economic vitality of the United States.

None of this is meant to defend the economic status quo.

Or a Republican President. Or a Democratic Congress. I slept just as well in the ‘90s when we had a Democratic President and a Republican Congress. We just had different scare stories back then that didn’t turn out to be true.

And there are a lot of things that could be better. Our schools. A tax system even the IRS doesn’t understand. How the federal government spends the money.

I know. You’re still mad. Surely I’ve mentioned something that does keep you up late at night. But maybe, just maybe, working yourself up over China is just as silly as worrying about immigration. Maybe they’re both grossly overblown as threats to our prosperity and way of life.

Chill out.

Read more arguments on the other side. The optimists usually have some decent arguments. Maybe they’re right. Learn some economics. It’s working for me.

Unless you’re one of those people who likes to get steamed over the state of the world just for the sake of steaming. Then I can’t help you. But the rest of really should sleep better. It’s going to be OK. Really. Sweet dreams.

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