Apocalypse Not Now: Just About Everything Is Getting Better

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Ellicott Dredges during his second 'Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour' in Baltimore, on May 17, 2013.

As a culture, we seem to be in an apocalyptic moment. Judging from the movie trailers, it looks like the human race is basically screwed this summer in After Earth, World War Z, and This Is the End—a comedy!—while Washington (and its black president) will be besieged by cyber-terrorists in White House Down. In the real world, we’re bombarded with warnings about our debt crisis, our economic crisis, and of course our political crisis, which is to say, our government’s inability to deal with all its other crises. Republicans in particular have become perennial prophets of doom, warning that President Obama’s foreign policies will destroy our standing in the world, that Obamacare will destroy our health care system, that out-of-control spending, growth-killing taxes, and loose monetary policy will turn us into a dystopia of inflation, high interest rates and economic paralysis.

Relax!

Things are OK. And while you can’t tell from following the news—the press doesn’t like to report on planes that land safely, or seemingly obvious stuff that didn’t happen yesterday—things are getting better. The apocalypse is not nigh.

We are now in the fourth year of a slow but steady recovery. The economy is adding about 200,000 jobs a month, and has added 6.8 million private-sector jobs since the end of the Great Recession. The stock market is at an all-time high, and has almost doubled since Obama took office. The housing market is rebounding. It’s true that 7.5% unemployment is way too high, but it’s better than the double-digit unemployment we had in the wake of the financial meltdown, when the apocalypse really was nigh. The government has even turned a profit on the reviled Wall Street bailouts that ended the meltdown.

(MORE: The Recovery Stays the Course with 175,000 New Jobs in May)

Yes, the economy would be doing even better if it weren’t being dragged down by the “sequester,” $85 billion worth of haphazard spending cuts resulting from Republican demands for government austerity. Those were misguided demands after a financial crisis, the kind of demands that have turned Europe into an economic basket case. But so far, at least, fears that the sequester could scuttle the U.S. recovery have proven to be overblown. Consumer confidence just hit a six-year high.

What about the fears that inspired the sequester and the rest of the austerity push, the fears that spiraling deficits would turn us into Greece? Well, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates the deficit at $642 billion, the lowest since the crisis; it’s been cut in half since Obama took office, the fastest reduction since World War 2. We’re not Greece. The bond markets certainly don’t think so; interest rates are at historic lows. And the runaway inflation that Paul Ryan and other loose-money critics keep predicting has yet to materialize; inflation is actually below the official Federal Reserve target of just 2 percent.

In fairness, while America’s short-term deficit is shrinking fast, our long-term deficit is still a concern, because soaring health care costs have threatened the future of Medicare and Medicaid. But there’s good news there, too. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation, health care spending is now growing at the slowest rate in five decades, which is why Medicare’s trustees just upgraded the program’s budget outlook. And there is strong evidence that Obamacare’s efforts to reorient the medical system to reward providers who keep their patients healthy instead of providers who perform more services are working. For example, Obamacare imposes financial penalties on hospitals with high rates of readmissions and central-line infections; predictably, hospitals have improved their performance in both areas. The health information technology revolution—launched by Obama’s 2009 stimulus—is also bending the cost curve, dragging a pen-and-paper system into digital age.

(MORE: Uh-Oh: We Already Started Spending Like It’s 2005)

Meanwhile, U.S. combat forces are out of Iraq, and they’ll be out of Afghanistan next year. U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest level in two decades, and so are U.S. oil imports. By historical standards, taxes are very low and spending is very modest. General Motors and Chrysler, wards of the state four years ago, are posting their best sales numbers in years. Gays are serving openly in the military, solar installations have increased over 1,000% in four years, a cool robot is taking cool pictures of Mars, and Tesla just paid back its government loan with interest. Things are getting better, and better is better than worse.

But the headlines are all about supposed scandals—stupid IRS agents in Cincinnati, overzealous leak investigations at the Justice Department, a dopey dispute over Benghazi talking points. These are the kind of things that politicians can obsess about when there’s no crisis on the horizon; the last time the national outlook was this bright, Republicans impeached the president for sexing up an intern. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not as if the latest wannabe-scandals are distracting official Washington from any important work it might be doing. Sure, Congress ought to do something about climate change, but as long as Republicans control the House, Congress isn’t going to do anything about climate change.

I guess that qualifies as a crisis. But one of the lessons of the Obama era, along with the general advisability of DOING STUFF regardless of the political implications, is that positive change can happen in spite of a dysfunctional system. You couldn’t build a summer movie around that—”In a world where complex legislation is implemented effectively…”—but it’s still a feel-good idea, even if it seems to have limited box-office appeal.

MORE: Money Talking: Where’s the Economy Headed This Summer?

269 comments
peterwuliu
peterwuliu

The thing, Mr. Grunwald, is that since we are now to think it's fine, what a mere six years ago we were supposed to think was an anti-American outrage, it would be nice to do so with the creature comforts of jobs, low food, energy, medical, and educational inflation, and less expectation of a threat letter from the IRS should we complain about any of it too loudly....wait, what's that flying overhead?


CheapSale

ElisaSalieri
ElisaSalieri

Wow!  This is the craziest article I've ever read!  Did you purposely avoid the QE and continuous printing of money without anything to back it on purpose?  Do you really believe employment is up?  And the bond market???   

I think you should let JimmyLee take over your blog.  You've lost your mind!

JimmyLee
JimmyLee

Ok really lets have a reality check. How does the government plan to pay back all the money they have spent to make the economy look good for the short term? Still quoting those 7% unemployment numbers? Lets just not count the millions of people that gave up looking for work. Forbes financial quotes unemployment really at 15.6 % due to that and underemployment. Explain that one to the people in my city with a 13.9% unemployment rate and the biggest company here is laying off 1100 people by july 3rd. Raising it another 3% How about we talk about the multiple attempts of Quantitative easing the fed has used to artificially stimulate the economy. Lets talk about 45 billion per month in freshly printed money over this term of QE. Hey lets not forget when the fed starts raising interest rates to get us to pay back all that money they printed that rich people got on Wall Street instead of the working class. How household income which is still 32% below 2008 levels will drop even further as inflation kicks in on every single product we consume. Explain how the amount of people on government aid and Food stamps keeps rising? That alone is the single largest sign that the economy is not improving for the average man and woman. Explain how we plan on paying off the national debt. They quote plans to reduce it 10% - to 30%  in a 10-20 year span. So we are passing the buck onto our children and possibly their children for decades to come? Its really funny how people look at things at face value and make assumptions when they do not have a clue how economics work. This has nothing to do with republicans and democrats. We have a faulty system and it spans both parties and starts with a terrible banking system that has monopolized and destroyed every economy in every country.  

themandeepsta
themandeepsta

"Republicans in particular have become perennial prophets of doom", I guess liberal media bias is the one thing that isn't getting better. Wasn't Obama the one preaching gloom and doom over the sequester?

NJ
NJ

The suicide rate for middle-aged white males has jumped 40% over the last decade. Unemployment continues at record high after the 2008 recession. Trade deficit and federal deficits continue at record highs. The country cannot borrow from other countries, and the federal government cannot borrow forever without there being a day of reckoning. And people like Michael Grunwald keep assuring us everything is okay just because their favored politicians are in power.

fbman16
fbman16

Mr G. If your interested I have some ocean front property in TN for sale. Can't believe you have brought anything this administration has been selling the American people. If you have YOU should come see the view of  the ocean.


doctor.j
doctor.j

Welcome to Earth, Mr Grunwald, we hope you enjoy your visit here.   From your article above, it is clear that you've been living on Pluto for quite some time and have no idea of the severe problems inflicted upon us due to the Obama Administration.   Don't let the spaceship door hit you in the butt when you leave, which we all hope will be Very Soon.

RobertSailors
RobertSailors

Politicians wear neckties to keep the foreskin from slipping over their heads during television interviews... Just So you know;)

Winston
Winston

The thing, Mr. Grunwald, is that since we are now to think it's fine, what a mere six years ago we were supposed to think was an anti-American outrage, it would be nice to do so with the creature comforts of jobs, low food, energy, medical, and educational inflation, and less expectation of a threat letter from the IRS should we complain about any of it too loudly....wait, what's that flying overhead?

Winston
Winston

Apparently Mr. Grunwald has advanced credentials in Newspeak from the Ministry of Truth.

One finds oneself repeatedly rubbing one's eyes in bewilderment at such remarkable screed whose calm delivery comes from straight down in the depths of the rabbit hole.

Dolphin
Dolphin

Obama has brought this country wisdom, love, compassion and hope!  Everything is getting better and the radical right knows this deep down.  However, all they have to offer is hate which has never solved a problem or helped win an election. I feel for the haters - it must be hard to live within yourself.  Rather than respond to this post with more hate (as I suspect some of you will), try smelling the roses every once in a while and recognize how lucky we are to live in this great country.  Yes, liberals are patriotic too!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Amazing how many of the haters on this post were also the same people turning a blind eye when the GOP crashed our economy in the first place, ignored 37 CIA warnings on 9/11 and lied to invade Iraq. And that is just the tip of the iceberg from the last administration. The American People elected this president not once but twice and the GOP has yet to do anything to help him improve our economy. Think the recovery isn't happening fast enough write your congressman and tell them to stop wasting time trying to repeal a law that isn't going anywhere and actually work with the Administration to help things get better.

PoliticalVeteran
PoliticalVeteran

To anyone of the people who have been so openly hostile to our country's elected leadership and government, I have a few questions, would you trade places today with someone who lives in Kuwait City, Kuwait or Mexico City, Iran maybe.  By complete accident of the location of your birth you have been placed on earth in what Ronald Reagan (one of your heroes and mine) called the "last, best hope of man on earth." So, do us all a favor, if you don't like things, get out and vote, run for office, take an interest and invest in your community and be active in the process. Encourage your children to go to college and out work and out think the next kid.  I've been lucky enough to travel all over the world, I've met some of the really rotten people on this earth who nation's call leaders. They're dictators or worse.  Every 2 or 4 years we get to decide thumbs up or thumbs down on who runs the country and our local school boards and county commissions.  I've seen what real poverty is, on the streets of India and Pakistan and other nations. Our poorest have reasonably good health care and few go hungry.  What I am trying to say is that we have a one helluva of a good thing going here, it's not perfect.  But each time I leave, I can't wait to get back. Our nation, warts and all, is the envy of the world. Now, one last piece of advice, stop your complaining, get involved and on election day, vote and tell your kids to strive to do their best work. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@NJ The country can't borrow from other countries? Is that why foreigners are rushing to buy US Bonds? Federal deficits are now 4% of GDP compare to 10% when he took office. And if middle aged  white males would listen to fewer right wing propaganda sites they wouldn't be in such a rush to kill themselves.


Dolphin
Dolphin

@doctor.j I earlier posted about the fact that all the radical right has is hate and a need to write insulting and offensive political comments.  After reading this post - I rest my case!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@doctor.j Welcome to reality Doctor. I see that you have been living on Planet Fox. A Communist isn't in charge and our economy is not collapsing. Please do let the door hit you on the butt on the way out. It may knock sense into you since your butt is clearly where all you information comes from.

RobertSailors
RobertSailors

It's a Bird... No, wait, it's a Plane!... NO! IT"S SUPER BARRY!!!

FrankJohnson
FrankJohnson

@Dolphin Which obama are you talking about not the one who is a serial liar, immoral huckster, and anti-American and who has unleashed the dogs on fellow Americans.

RobertSailors
RobertSailors

Wow..............

When I smell those roses, I kinda have to block out the 300 pounds of manure that fertilizes them....

Ground control to major Tom
Ground control to major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
(Ten) Ground control (Nine) to major Tom (Eight)
(Seven, six) Commencing countdown (Five), engines on (Four)
(Three, two) Check ignition (One) and may gods (Blastoff) love be with you

RichardSmith1
RichardSmith1

@Dolphin

"Obama has brought this country wisdom, love, compassion and hope!  Everything is getting better blah-blah"

Substitute "Dear Leader" for 0bama and North Korea for "this country".... it's amazing how well it fits.

Historybuff
Historybuff

@Dolphin It is not the smiles you smile... and the pretty words you profess... it is the decline you bring and the loss of freedoms & prosperity that you have done.

You are just like your lord obama... you thinks sweet words and big smiles mean something... while jobs continue to decline, people live on less money, and hope continues to decline.

There ya go, sweety!

HB

Historybuff
Historybuff

@mantisdragon91 Why do you think most people don't like obamacare?   Do yo know better what is good for them, than they know what is good for themselves?

HB

Historybuff
Historybuff

@mantisdragon91 Do you think the democratic senate could have passed a budget?   Any budget?   And obama... can he spell 'b - u - d - g - e - t?   could he have passed one?

Do you think maybe a 'budget' could have helped the country improve?

HB

Dolphin
Dolphin

@mantisdragon91 The republican party will never win another national election with so much hate at it's core.  Americans love optimism and positive energy - look at how well Reagan did.  I did not agree with him on anything, but admired his personality.  He would cringe to see the misery and hate which dominates his party!

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 Mantis, nobody believes you DNC talking points.  Bush crashed the economy...blah, blah, blah.

The FBI was tipped about one of the hijackers, in fact he was in jail in August 2001, and the French told us that this guy recruited terrorists.  They still failed to stop him. 

RobertSailors
RobertSailors

Like you, I’ve travelled the world, from Ulaambaatar to St. Petersburg, from Karachi to Patio Beach. I Vote in every election that I’m eligible, and my children have been taught that voting isn’t a “Privilege” it is a Civic Duty. My problem with this author article is that it is pure and simple propaganda that whitewashes the problems with a happy shade of paint.

The difference between the US and the Countries you mention USED TO BE that they all had a State Run media where we had a free and independent Press… Is Mr. Grunwald really so absolutely clueless (or rich) that he doesn’t notice that fuel is over $3.50 a Gallon? Does he not notice that other press outlets have been targeted with phone record confiscation (or just that it didn’t affect him)? Did he not notice that in the event of armed Conflict, every aircraft carrier in the fleet has an “Alert-5” fighter ready to launch at the drop of a hat, and one of those battle groups is always on station in the Indian Ocean within 45 minutes of Bengazi (I again refer to his “a dopey dispute over Benghazi talking points” comment… Men are DEAD… There’s absolutely NOTHING DOPEY about questioning the decision to let people die!). By the way, why is the producer of the now discounted Anti-Islamic video that was “to blame” for the Bengazi attack still incarcerated? Are we on the verge of losing first amendment rights? Is not the Administration accountable for the other attacks on Embassies that happened after they used that video as a scapegoat, giving radical Islamists an excuse?

I’m more than happy to do my civic duty, and do so regularly. It takes accountability, transparency and a Free and AGGRESSIVE NOT PASSIVE PRESS to insure that our Representative Republic continues to function in the manner it was conceived. Mr. Grunwalds Article is the basest example of ass-kissing journalism I’ve seen in a very long time, or I would not have made my posts. I’d expect to see this in Pravda, or perhaps “Havana Today”. I expect, no, check that, DEMAND that the Press perform their functionary role in the operation as the “Fourth Estate”, as the eyes and ears of the Public. “Excellent work Comrade Grunwald. The Collective appreciates your contribution and it will be rewarded with increased access”. (Sarcasm Intended)

Historybuff
Historybuff

@PoliticalVeteran I agree with the intent of what you are saying.   However, I disagree with those that are trying to make our country more like those that you choose to despair of.   I have seen (most) of those countries, and done most of what you are encouraging young people to do... in addition to fighting a war for our country.

We have much to lose if "The American Way of Life" goes away... and I believe it is now on a slippery slope... heading downwards.   Time to get in gear.

HB  

Sparrow55
Sparrow55

@mantisdragon91 @NJ Two questions come to mind: 1). How many of those middle aged white males are killing themselves with the guns they supposedly need to have in order to protect themselves from the government?  2). If more middle aged white males are killing themselves, isn't that speeding up the process in which whites in general will become the minority in America?  

fbman16
fbman16

@Dolphin @doctor.j  I see no hate, just some harsh sarcasms w/ a readers view point.I guess your against freedom of expression if it doesn't fit yours huh. Get a little thicker skin. The same amount of hate was evident in regards to the last administration. 

Dolphin
Dolphin

@Historybuff @Dolphin I would hope you would smile too with booming job growth, the deficit cut in half and regained respect in the world.  What freedoms has anyone lost?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Historybuff @Dolphin Amazing a person wants peace and harmony and you attack them. No wonder this version of the GOP is rapidly headed for history's dumpster.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Historybuff @mantisdragon91 Many people don't like ObamaCare because they feel it doesn't go far enough and include a single payer option. Many others have been lied to repeatedly with things like "death panels" and simply don't know what to expect. And this is how you know he is a Centrist. The left feels it doesn't go far enough.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 DNC talking points? So the GOP did not crash the economy or invade Iraq based on fake evidence? The Bush administration was not warned multiple times by the CIA of impending attacks on the US homeland?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RobertSailors The problem is that you have been listening to the right wing propaganda sites that have no bearing on reality and believing that they are actual news. For starters a president has absolutely no control over the price of gas. And the phone record targeting of journalists was also happening under the previous administration about which I am sure you had no complaints.

As for the ongoing Benghazi lies that have been spread by the right wing propaganda sites, let me set the record once and for all. This was a CIA operation to recover surface to air missiles and there were two dozen field agents primarily ex special forces in the area. They chased off the first attack and were hunkered down for the night at the main CIA facility when a mortar attack that killed the last two men occurred. The reason planes weren't scrambled is that there was no indication that there would be another attack and even if there was, with surface to air missiles known to be in the area, the regional commanders would have been reluctant to commit air assets at night over an urban area in what could have been a designed ambush to shoot down our planes.

And last but not least lets address the ongoing idiocy of calling this president a Communist. Ceo pay was up 6.9% last year and the Stock market hit record levels. Not a single bank was prosecuted for their misdeeds. These are not the actions of a Communist. In fact if you look closely you would notice he is governing much like a moderate Republican would, before the GOP was hijacked by Tea Baggers and went of the rails to the extreme right.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Historybuff @PoliticalVeteran No one is making our country like those he described, so please stop the hyperbole. The President is neither a Socialist or a secret Muslim. In many way he is actually a centrist Republican back before the GOP swung so far to the Right that according to Bob Dole even Reagan would not be accepted in it.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RobertSailors And yet he ha created 6.2 Million Private sector jobs. What has the GOP done except obstruct him every step of the way?

RobertSailors
RobertSailors

Ummm.... Dude... That was Obama that promised "A Laserlike focus" and "I will not rest until".... His Jobs commission hadn't met for six months and then was disolved before the 2012 election...

Historybuff
Historybuff

@mantisdragon91 @Historybuff @Dolphin Remember... everything is gooood.... everything is perfect... words trump deeds.... 2014 is going to be a liberal democratic victory... everyone has a great job... Family money is plentiful... gas is cheap... America is respected...

HB

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Historybuff @Dolphin No one is claiming everything is perfect. But compared to 2008 we have seen drastic improvements. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when he took office. Even if we gain 170,000 a month that is still a net swing of almost a million. Banks are lending again and we have new construction. The IRS scandal has been proven to not be directed from Washington and while its tragic we lost an Ambassador was working with the CIA when the attack occurred and nothing could have been done to save him. In fact we had many more attacks against diplomatic facilities on Bush Watch. Eleven or more if memory serves.

Come 2014 the voters will remember that the GOP promised a "Laser like focus on jobs" and instead spent their time chasing scandal and attempting to repeal a law that wasn't going anywhere.

Historybuff
Historybuff

@Dolphin @Historybuff Keep drinking the koolaid, kiddies.   Frankly, you lying like this keeps you birds out of the way while the rest of us go about taking the country back to solid ground. 

Please keep telling people how wonderful your lord obama is while we get on into the 2014 elections.   Remember, everything is perfect... all is good... plenty of jobs... plenty of money in everyone's pockets... no IRS will ever bother your... our diplomats are respected & safe all around the world... terrorism is all gone now... your emails are private... 

remember now... pass on the good word!

HB

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Historybuff @mantisdragon91 Why would they bother on a budget that the house would never let them pass. We have a party that has taken this country hostage with the debt ceiling and with the sequester and yet here you are defending their actions.

Historybuff
Historybuff

@mantisdragon91 LOL !   How many YEARS did it take them?   How BADLY did they want things to 'improve'...

Better go get a sip of koolaid, first.

HB

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 Silly fool we create way more Al Queda with our invasion of Iraq than we ever killed. Abu Grhaib alone was worth thousands of new recruits. And Iraq never attacked us and had no WMDs. On the other hand Saudi Arabia did fund the terrorists who actually committed 9/11, and GWB hid their nationals from public scrutiny.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout  You act as if Iraq was just sitting there, sweet and innocent.  Saddam had WMD.  He used WMD.  He invaded Kuwait. He warred with Iran. He, and his sons were murdering maniacs.  Every intelligence agency thought Iraq had WMD. 

The upside: we killed thousands of al Qaeda that will never find there way to the US, or Afghanistan, or Libya, etc.  Find a theater and kill the enemy, before they come to your doorstep. 

Yes, lots of warnings.  Didn't terrorists try to blow up the twin towers before?  Yes they did.  I'd say that trumps your other warnings.  We still have warnings, duh.  Did that stop the Boston bombers?  Nope, the FBI effed that one up. 

Maybe if Bill wasn't so preoccupied with Monica and the other girls, he could have taken Bin Laden out when he had the chance.  But, a BJ was more important.