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This Is What the Obama Administration Calls 'Recovery Summer'?

Economic problems continue, but Americans remain optimistic.

12:00 AM, Jul 3, 2010 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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Meanwhile, 1.3 million jobless workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits, a figure that will jump to 3.3 million if Congress can’t resolve the dispute about how to fund an extension of payments. Democrats want to borrow the money, adding to the deficit, while Republicans are demanding that the needed $34 billion come out of unspent funds from the first stimulus package. Unfortunately for workers whose benefits have expired, Congress deemed its Independence Day break more important than enabling millions of Americans to feed their families, and went home.

Throw in the news really close-to-home and from overseas. People living in states that are broke or close to it, know they are in for higher taxes and reduced benefits.  And even those only casually interested in such things as the G20 meeting noticed that Obama stood against the entire world in his prescription for avoiding a double-dip recession by more borrow-and-spend. They also didn’t very much care about the problems of Greece or the condition of Europe’s banks, until they heard that those problems are as threatening as was the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and are very likely to hit the U.S. banking industry hard, which would further curtail credit on which small businesses rely.

So it should come as no surprise that only 27 percent of Americans tell Pew Research Center pollsters that they are satisfied with the direction of the country, compared with 64 percent (69 percent according to a Newsweek poll) who are dissatisfied. At 25 percent, Congress’s approval rating is at the lowest point in the 25 years in which Pew has been putting this question to its sample respondents.

Yet, amidst our angst, we are glad to be Americans. Some 76 percent are “very proud” to be Americans, and 74 percent strongly agree with the statement that they would rather be citizens of America than any other country (the comparable figures for, say, Britain are 51 percent and 40 percent, respectively). We also retain our American optimism: 64 percent are somewhat or very optimistic about life for themselves and their families over the next 40 years, 61 percent are optimistic about the future of the country, and 56 percent expect the economy to be stronger in 2050 than it is today. The long look is cheerier than the shorter-term view reflected in consumer confidence surveys.

From which it is possible to conclude that Americans, 42 percent of whom characterize themselves as conservative compared with 20 percent who call themselves liberal, are not unhappy with our economic and political system. We just don’t like the way it is being managed by the political class.  

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