So, we’re on the ropes and our inevitability buckles, we sag and we drop… down, but not out, never out. We take the count of nine and, somehow, the spring comes back to our psyches and we start punching back.
Six days ago, The Labor Department reported that the U.S. unemployment rate had fallen to 8.3 percent, a noteworthy return to the level of President Obama’s first full month in office after climbing to a high of 10 percent in late 2009—and 243,000 jobs were added in January at the fastest pace in the last nine months. Add to that good news that the jobs market had larger gains in earlier months than previously reported and the economy has been gaining strength for almost six months. And it doesn’t stop there: “Over the last year, the economy has added almost two million jobs for the best twelve months in five years. Stocks surged, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closing only slightly below its high since Mr. Obama took office” and the Dow Jones Industrial average at its highest since May 19, 2008, eight months before the president took office.
You’d think that such positive news would be welcome, wouldn’t you? Why am I even asking? Because we have those among us who don’t want the country to succeed, not if a president not of their party gets any credit. Whom do you imagine would greet such good tidings with such crepe-hanging prose?, like: “This recovery has been slower than it should have been. People have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer. Will it get better? I think it’ll get better. But this president has not helped the process. He’s hurt it.” Does that help "the process"?
The sour grapes comes from Mitt Romney, who, to paraphrase Henry Clay, would rather be right to be president—as far right as Republican voters will buy, it’s fair to add. Romney, and Clay, who preceded him by almost two centuries, make an interesting comparison. Clay was nicknamed "The Great Compromiser." Flip-flop didn’t enter the American lexicon until 1944, three years before Romney was born. Clay was a candidate for president three times on three different “Republican” tickets, and failed. Romney, as we know, is on his second run, but doesn’t seem inclined to take no for an answer, not even by practically everyone in his own party. Clay was a dedicated conservative of his time. Romney is a chameleon, all the time.
In lieu of roaring back, our economy may only be purring back, but it’s pure catnip, not partisan fodder, for those hurting the most. We the People feed on optimism. And optimism feeds on itself. Any sports fan, any prayer fan, any romantic (for Cupid’s sake!), can tell you that.
Can a $26 billion settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks and a hoped-for value that would stretch to 39 million and nine additional major mortgage servicers, having the potential to provide relief to nearly two million current and former homeowners, be bad? Even flawed and in flux, bad? I give it 24 hours before the first bellyacher grouses.
In high school, I had a mentor, an inspiring English professor we used to call Uncle Joe. To this day, I think about a lecture wherein he contended that the key to the success of American pilots during World War Two was their unfailing sense of humor. The impact of his insight is reinforced every time I see a movie with the actor-pilots bantering wittily while exploding flak threatens to bring them and their planes down from the skies. I see an overkill of flak emanating from Capitol Hill and the campaign trail threatening to bring down the electorate, but a woeful dearth of wit or humor to elevate or stir. Fortunately, you can’t keep a good country down.