Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Now that the stock market is generally rising and there's been several months of job creation, the country is finally pessimistic about the economy, even panicking at the first hint of inflation.

Bizarre, I thought, until reminded that the price of gasoline is well above $2 a gallon -- and suddenly this seems to be the only factor that counts. I was slow to catch on because I don't drive; while I notice the high prices, it's with the same distant alarm with which I notice cigarette smokers coughing.

The timing is still counterintuitive, as there are certainly other economic indicators to be considered. By now, everyone knows that when gas prices rise, it's possible to beat it back through conservation. For instance, buying something other than a sport utility vehicle to drive. Indeed, although most media reports on gas costs show drivers plan to keep buying, The New York Times has reported that sales of the Hummer are lagging badly.

It's a start, I suppose, but there's no getting around the fact that when the economy picks up is a stupid time to start getting cynical. Numbers on Iraq are only dropping now that things are obviously bad, so why the divergence in reaction on the nation's fiscal health?

Probably the same wrong-headed groupthink that has the nation terrified of tax-and-spend liberals and believing that Republicans are strict guardians of the public pocketbook.

That's why, depressingly, as President Bush's numbers on the economy and Iraq plummet, I grow increasingly convinced that the idiot will be re-elected. This is not an electorate on which one can count for sound reasoning.

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