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November 16, 2009

Time Discovers Funemployment: Goshdarnit, Some Americans Are So Happy In This Recession (So You Should Be Too!)

Count your blessings. Obama is President, and all is good in the world.

Before I quote the piece, let me note that anyone writing in a news weekly about the depressive psychology of the recession is unqualified to do so, because,k of course, that writer, unlike millions of Americans, still has a job.

Now of course such a writer has to write the article anyway. The fact that, having a job and all, he is not really an expert on how a recession feels to the unemployed or underemployed, doesn't mean he shouldn't write the article. Someone has to, and anyone paid to do it will share his lack of full qualification.

But just as recently as, oh, say, the last eight years during the Bush Administration, comfortable and secure and well-paid writers were nevertheless able to dig deep and imagine what being out of work, or seeing one's wages stagnate, must feel like. They were able to channel the emotions of others, Method Acting style, and oh, did they channel. They virtually ate the scenery, so "in-character" were they as they decried the pain of Bush's... um, 5% unemployment rate.

And now? Ah well, that capacity is entirely gone from them, fled like a thief caught in the light. Now they are unable to put themselves in the shoes of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans scrabbling to get by, depleting their almost-depleted savings accounts, counting on friends and relatives to loan them money to keep them in shelter.

Happy days are here again.

Happiness is a sappy word and a flimsy concept — more fleeting than contentment, several octaves lower than joy. But happiness is what pollsters test and economists track, however clumsily, so we're stuck with it as the medium for measuring our mood. Not surprisingly, that mood has bounced around over the years, with the general sense of well-being hitting its lowest points in 1973, 1982, 1992 and 2001, all recession years. So why is it that at least some aspects of the Great Recession of 2009 appear to have made people feel better?


In January 2008, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was launched. It was designed to work like a Dow Jones average of attitude. At least 1,000 people are surveyed daily, 350 days a year... But here's the funny thing: by this past summer, overall well-being was higher than it was in the summer of 2008, before the Apocalypse.

This poll is exactly one year old and they're championing as proving people are happy.

"Before the Apocalypse" is extremely misleading. The housing bubble broke a year before and everyone was watching their home values tumble and also worrying about the Big One coming down the road. This poll merely demonstrates not that people are "happy," but something sort of obvious: People dread losing what they have, and then, once lost, they adjust themselves to the new normal. They're sadder and poorer, but have less anxiety about it. As they've already lost what they feared they would.

So this poll did not really happen "before the Apocalypse." It began on the eve of destruction, with everyone realizing something big and bad was coming.

But a one-year old poll is apparently good evidence for Time!

Be happy, Morons. Everyone's doing it.

By the way: As liberals never tire of reminding us, the recession began under Bush. In his last quarter. It was retroactively determined it had begun then.

So this poll does not measure happiness in a recession to happiness in a growing recovery, as the writer deliberately misleads. It measures happiness at one point in a severe recession (after most of the damage is, hopefully, already done) to another point in the same severe recession (when people are still waiting for the bulk of the losses to come).

I want to emphasize that: Liberals never tire of telling us the recession began in 2008 until it's convenient to forget that, in order to mislead us that Americans are happier now than they were in a growing economy.

Disgusting.

...

But the Great Recession has also exposed our magical thinking about what constitutes a middle-class lifestyle. Flash back a generation to the house with the white picket fence. It had a black-and-white TV with an antenna, a car in the garage, a chicken in every pot and two kinds of lettuce (light green and dark green). Now the average house is more than 50% bigger, the car is twice as powerful (and there's often more than one), the TV is flat and gets 900 channels, and we expect the grocery store to have strawberries year-round and about 50 flavors of mustard....

All of these things were true in Bush's 5% unemployment economy and I don't remember Time citing them as reasons to realize "You've never had it better."

... I'm struck by how many people tell pollsters that the voluntary downshifting and downsizing of the past year have come as a kind of relief.

Keep talking like that and you will be struck.

Yes, it is not really a shock that there is some relief to lose what you feared you'd lose for years.

But you know what? You still lost.

Maybe we've lowered our standards.

"Maybe."

I don't remember standards being lowered under Bush. I remember Clinton's one year super-economy -- and that magic super-heated bubble really only lasted for a year and a bit -- being vindictively used as the standard of comparison that all presidents would now have to aspire to.

Seems like under Republican presidents, expectations are raised by the media vindictively.

But we already knew that money can buy only comfort, not contentment; happiness correlates much more closely with our causes and connections than with our net worth. Americans may have less money — charitable giving in current dollars dropped for the first time in 20 years in 2008 — but about a million more people volunteered their time to a cause. Which makes me wonder: Is it a coincidence that eight of the 10 happiest states in the country also rank in the top 10 for volunteering?

Again, equally true under Bush, but not offered as reason to celebrate then.

Seems to me that people would be happier if only 5% were out of work as opposed to 10.2% (and climbing). Then we could both volunteer and have a job.

Whatever you make of the psychology of happiness, we know something of its physics. It rises as it ricochets off other people, returning to us stronger by virtue of being released. It gets bigger when we don't care if it gets smaller; we stopped buying all the stuff we didn't need that was supposed to make us happier, and we seem to be happier for it. And who would have expected that?

Ah. Anyone grousing about being unemployed is also being a dick by feeding negative energy into the loop and bringing other people down, man.

It's amazing, isn't it? It's so utterly shameless.

This is very similar to a previous LAT piece about "funemployment," and a NYT piece celebrating the joys of being liberated from a job so one can go out and volunteer (unpaid) and make a difference.

It's also very similar to a recent AP piece. Remember, under Bush (with his sky-high 5% unemployment rate), people were hurting. They were in pain.

And so they must be hurting twice as much in Obama's 10.2% apocalypse, right?

Nope. They're just grouchy. Unable to appreciate the blessings they still have.


Thanks to Warden.



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posted by Ace at 12:49 PM

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