Sunday, January 23, 2011

What bad economy? You have water and electricity don't you?

Sitting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport this morning, I was watching MSNBC run a story telling us that the economy is actually not as bad as it seems.  According to this network (whose new slogan by the way is "lean forward") if the economy were really as bad as we think it is, more Americans would be giving up luxuries and comforts that we take for granted.  Some of the statistics mentioned in the story include:  83% percent of American households have internet access, 79% have cable-TV, we spend an average of $2300.00 per year on "fun", we receive an average of 22.5 paid vacation days per year, and despite the foreclosure crisis 67.8% of adults are homeowners.  What about that nine and a half percent of people that is unemployed?  Do you think that maybe some of them may fall under the 17% without Internet access or the 21% without cable?

Using the picture of an average American household 10-15 years ago the assumption that everything is just fantastic could be plausible.  After all, 15 years ago the ability to search for jobs online was not all that important.  Faxes and snail-mail were an acceptable way of submitting a resume.  Computer skills were a plus when applying for a job but not required.  Back then the ability to work from home, or telecommute, was not a required capability.  Fast forward to today, most elementary school kids wouldn’t pass to the next grade if they did not have the ability to access the Internet.  The Internet is such an important tool that finding a job or networking without it would be nearly impossible.  Just as the statement "the economy is not that bad, 99% of American households have running water and electricity" is absurd, so is the idea that using statistics on cable-TV and Internet usage have any real world correlation to unemployment or economic growth.

Every household has some wasteful spending, and depending on the circumstances, that excess may or may or may not be a critical factor in the family budget.  Obviously if your family is part of the 9.6% unemployment rate then maybe the premium cable-TV and extra fast internet package need to be considered as possible areas of savings.  As far as MSNBC is concerned because the average working adult receives 22.5 days of vacation per year, we should not be concerned with the roughly 1 in 10 adults who receive zero paid vacation days per year by virtue of their unemployment status. 

Whoever wrote this story for MSNBC needs to wake up.  We are not living 10-15 years ago.  The idea that just because Americans have a higher quality of life and standard of living than anywhere else on earth, and therefore should stop complaining is absurd.  The fact is, every week the mainstream media emphasizes that the economy is in a "recovery" while conveniently forgetting to mention that month after month unemployment figures are being revised upward, companies continue to announce lay-offs, and that stubborn unemployment problem which has been focused on "like a laser" continues.  Oh, and one more thing . . . It was announced today that 2010 had the most foreclosures yet, even though the recession is said to have ended sometime in 2009.  We may be in the process of slowing our spiraling economy or even ever-so-slowly starting to head in the right direction, but let's not jump to any conclusions until we see some solid numbers.  I seem to remember that when George W Bush was president, the 4.5% unemployment rate was routinely cited by the media as unacceptable.  So in my mind, until we are approaching THAT unacceptable figure again it's not yet time to celebrate.  

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