Democratic attacks on Mr. McCain and Republican attacks on Mr. Obama both seek to punish impermissibly positive thoughts. At a time when there exists a sense of crisis over the economy, fuel prices and many other issues, this reinforces the odd, two realities of life in the United States today: The way we are, and the way we think we are. The way we are could use some work, but overall, is pretty good. The way we think we are is terrible, horrible, awful. Possibly worse.
The case that things are basically pretty good? Unemployment is 5.5%, low by historical standards; income is rising slightly ahead of inflation; housing prices are down, but the typical house is still worth a third more than in 2000; 94% of Americans do not have threatened mortgages, and of those who do, most will keep their homes.
Inflation was up in 2007, but this stands out because the 16 previous years were close to inflation-free; living standards are the highest they have ever been, including living standards for the middle class and for the poor.
All forms of pollution other than greenhouse gases are in decline; cancer, heart disease and stroke incidence are declining; crime is in a long-term cycle of significant decline; education levels are at all-time highs.
Sure, gas prices are up, the dollar is weak and credit is tight – but these are complaints at the margin of a mainly healthy society.