Why Americans Are So Bummed Out on the Economy


So much for hope: We're apparently not exactly feeling it. A new poll indicates that a record number of Americans think the country is headed toward a depression -- with a capital D. I joined Gretchen Carlson for a Fox News Channel "Power Panel" Thursday to discuss just why we're so bummed out by the one-two punch of unemployment and foreclosures. And, they're not mutually exclusive -- the new number one reason for foreclosures is not subprime mortgages. It's losing your job.

And the malaise is broader. Even if you're worried about losing your job or are underemployed, that's enough. After all, fear is the hallmark of depression. Plus, even if you're not officially "under water," your feet are probably a little wet. Your nest egg is worth a goose egg. Not having the fallback position of being able to sell the house "if we ever really needed to" is unsettling. It's just not that liquid an asset in the clutch.

How unsettled you are is relative, and some economic Prozac may be in order. What's striking about the poll is they didn't just throw the term depression out there. They actually preceded the poll question by explaining just how bad the first one was: 1 in 4 workers were unemployed, banks failed and millions were temporarily homeless and unable to feed their families. Even when banks were failing and there was a knee-jerk reaction to race to the ATM machine for cash in 2008, the poll numbers were better. If you look at the data across polls, pessimism seemed to pick up when gas prices started to rise.

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As Peter Goodman, executive editor of Huffington Post Business points out, Americans don't need government reports and abstract data to get this ... it's visceral. They feel it in their bones. Forget "Morning in America." The economy -- in Arianna's words -- feels more like "Permanent Darkness."

President Obama seems -- even for a guy who prides himself on being cool under pressure -- to lack a sense of urgency. It is, as noted by Ben Feller, hard to imagine he's going to hit his 8% unemployment rate goal anytime soon.

The only silver lining for Obama will be if it is not as bad as expected. If things are tight come 2012, but not as tight as you feared they'd be. If happiness really is reality divided by expectations, here's hoping the numerator picks up in the form of job growth, because our expectations (the denominator) appears to be heading toward zero. And, dividing by zero is -- fittingly -- impossible.

Originally published