Yogi or Hunky Dory

When is the last time you met up with the Economy in a bar?

“How are ya doin’, Economy? How are ya feelin’ big guy? You feelin’ peckish? Sluggish? You got the flu comin’ on, maybe? You know, the ol’ recession? Hey, lemme’ buy you a drink.”

Okay, call me stupid. But if none of us chats up the Economy, how do we know it is in bad shape and getting worse? The figures certainly do not tell us this.

Screw the figures. A huge percentage of Americans tell pollsters the Economy is sick and getting sicker. Well, how did they come to believe this?

Did they simply ask themselves? Hey, we are doing poorly. And we think the future looks bleak for us. There are lots of people like us out there. Since there are lots of folks in bad straits like us, the economy must be rotten. And growing rottener.

No, we know this did not happen. They did not reach their conclusions this way. We know this because Americans tell pollsters they are doing well financially. Huge majority, very happy. Majority feel they will do better in future. Or at least as well as they are doing now.

The same is true of where the nation is headed.

We tell pollsters the country is going in the dumpster. Nearly 70 percent of us say this. It is going in the wrong direction because of the lack of leadership in Washington. We tell pollsters our President is a dud. And that our Congress is packed with more duds. We feel Congress stinks.

How do we come to such conclusions? Not by asking ourselves. Over 90 percent of us tell pollsters we are doing well. We, ourselves, are. We are pleased with the way things are going for us, our family. Over 60 percent of us believe things are going to get better for us.

How can this be? Imagine if we poll the Yankees. Virtually every player tells us he had a great season. Most say they expect to have a better year next year. How about the team? Oh, it’s rotten. Had a terrible year. Next year will be even worse.

If the Yankees spoke that way we would scratch our heads. Just as we ought to scratch our heads over what the pollsters are uncovering these days.

How can so many Americans feel good about their own situation while they badmouth the rest of the country?

I think it is beause we do not have a drink with the Economy. We do not phone Wall Street to ask about his health. We do not break bread with the Country. We don’t hold a hand to her forehead to check for fever.

Instead, we take the word of others. Commentators. Politicians on the attack. Critics. News figures. Editorial writers. We get our opinions from them.

We have to. Because we drive from home to office and back. And we plonk ourselves in front of the tv. (We average 30 hours a week with the boob tube.)

Once upon a time more of us talked with people out of our social class. More than we do now. Most of us live in communities where people are a lot like us. And we even have less to do with them - our neighbors - than we once did.

Once upon a time our news was delivered as news. There were news guys who gave us opinion, yes. But they told us it was opinion. These days most “news” is part opinion, part news.

Bottom line is that we are more isolated today than ever before. We are out of touch with the sorts of people our parents and grandparents used to rub shoulders with. We go to a supermarket and meet no one we know. They went to general stores and caught up on all the news and views while they shopped. If neighbors were doing well or poorly they heard about it first hand.

If you accept that some or all of this is true, I have a few questions for you. Suppose most of our opinions about the Country, the Economy, the Future of both - suppose they come from others. Suppose they come from “opinion makers.”

Is it possible that most commentators, critics, etc have given us a bum steer? A picture distorted by the tint of their lenses? Is it possible they are a pessimistic lot? Is it possible many have a political axe to grind?

Can we be honest about where our opinions originate? If we can, we might start to understand why we have grown to be like Yogi. He claimed nobody went to a certain restaurant because it was always too crowded.

The restaurant could not be both crowded, yet avoided by every one. The Country and Economy cannot be rotten in the eyes of most folks. Not when most folks say everything is hunky dory for themselves.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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