Opinion: Nation of whiners watch: Phil Gramm: 2, American People: 0


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The Recession Chimera continues its slow, painful slouch toward the Potomac. It’s prompting government to protect institutions that are as big, dumb and incompetent as itself. It’s an economic meltdown. (A ‘seemingly endless’ one at that.) It’s causing Americans to turn against the free market. It’s literally taking candy from the mouths of babes!

Take that, former Sen. Phil Gramm. As Paul Thornton noted recently, Gramm diagnosed our national malaise as a form of ‘mental recession’ and the bellyaching nation as a bunch of ‘whiners.’ How could a man affiliated with a presidential campaign say something so heartless, unpatriotic and downright mean? As it turned out, he couldn’t. But what could prompt such possibly unconstitutional hate speech? Maybe it’s that...


Wells Fargo has reported a phenomenal quarter. Oil prices are plummeting. Business is strong in industries ranging from online auctions to junk food to personal computers. And Dish Network is in the air!

Does this mean the economy is turning the corner, or that it’s booming? Of course not. It means the economy is too varied, complex and (no pun intended) rich to be described in the kind of inane, pro-or-con flapdoodle that politicians and great media organs employ. A vain, wealth-destroying politican makes a statement and people panic. Hysterical reporters seize on an interesting but not essential statistic, only to drop it when it no longer supports their dire theories. Meanwhile, people chug along doing business, and whenever one door closes (as Vanessa Williams taught us all), another one opens. Many of the good-news tidbits above, for example, are at least in part functions of the weak dollar. But who wants a weak dollar? That’s un-American.

Thornton largely concurred with Gramm’s analysis, as does the Union Trib’s Ruben Navarrette here. I would concur except for one thing: It’s not the people who are to blame. The public is ambivalent-to-hostile to the bailouts and interventions that are now taking place on an almost daily basis. We in the media are to blame for dumb reporting about complicated matters, and to a much greater extent the socialist politicians denounced yesterday by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) are to blame for doing the one thing guaranteed to produce a bad result: trying to ensure a particular outcome. (And without, as Peter Viles notes, giving a lot of thought to the essentials of customer service.)

Our old friend Matt Welch is wondering whether all this panic may show lack of faith in ‘an economy that, despite its many flaws, has consistently outpaced the doomsayers for what, a quarter century now?’ I’d note that in my neighborhood, the tour buses are full for the first time since I moved to Hollywood; gas prices at the cluster of cheaper stations on the lousy end of Melrose have raced each other down every day for the last two weeks. Two apartments have opened up in my building (and no, I didn’t call ICE on my neighbors), and there have been lookies steadily; I’m sure both will be rented by the end of this week. And we’re living in a $1.1 trillion county. Again, that doesn’t prove that the U.S. economy is good, bad or indifferent. It does prove that there are more things in heaven and earth than can be figured into a silly ‘economic downturn even hurts chocolatiers’ headline.