Gregg Easterbrook notes that there is a disconnect between actual conditions in the country and the attitudes about the country’s condition, attributing it in large part to gloom and doom spread by the media:
The relentlessly negative impressions of American life presented by the media, including the entertainment media, explain something otherwise puzzling that shows up in psychological data. When asked about the country’s economy, schools, health care or community spirit, Americans tell pollsters the situation is dreadful. But when asked about their own jobs, schools, doctors and communities, people tell pollsters the situation is good. Our impressions of ourselves and our neighbors come from personal experience. Our impressions of the nation as a whole come from the media and from political blather, which both exaggerate the negative.
Our rotten condition means we need someone to lead us out of rottenness. As Barack Obama says: “we are facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril, a dream that feels like it’s slipping away for too many Americans.” So it is the “fierce urgency of now” that. . . you know the rest. It is clear that if things were even so-so in America we would not need an Agent of Change to remodel our lives or undertake a vast reworking of our economy and health care system.So it is very out of fashion to note that Americans have never been as rich, never lived as long, and never enjoyed as much racial progress. That is not to say we don’t have major challenges and real problems. But it is fair to say that we shouldn’t be embarrassed to appreciate what we’ve got and be careful not embark on harebrained schemes that could make things worse.