Au Contraire, Economics
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
We're running a series of commentaries that challenge conventional wisdom. The series is called Au Contraire. And we're going to hear today from economist Russell Roberts. He thinks all the fretting about the American economy is a waste of time.
Mr. RUSSELL ROBERTS (Economist): I know the economic news doesn't seem very cheerful these days, but a lot of it is blown out of proportion. Stories and subplots designed to scare us, told by politicians and people with their own agenda. Let's not let them push us around whether they're on the right or the left, Republican or Democrat. They always tell us the sky is falling. That's the minimum standard for getting our attention on a busy news cycle. But remember, the sky usually doesn't fall. We just moved on to the next scare. So my New Year's wish for America is that we be skeptical of falling-sky stories, and that as a result, we all sleep better.
Immigrants aren't going to ruin America. Our culture is stronger than you think. It's a culture born of immigrants. They've always been part of the great American stew of language, food, music and hard work. And the kids do better than the parents. The subprime mortgage crisis isn't going to ruin the economy. After years of appreciation, falling housing crisis are in a disaster. Homeownership will remain near at an all-time high. China isn't going to steal our prosperity or our jobs. They can't. If they keep selling us toys with lead paint, we'll stop buying them. Meanwhile, they play Santa Claus and the American economy keeps creating more jobs.
The middle class isn't dying out. Real median family income' has been growing steadily for the last 30 years. Unemployment is still below 5 percent and has been that way for a while. The falling dollar means very little. It certainly doesn't threaten the economic vitality of the United States. None of these is meant to defend the economic status quo or a Republican president or a democratic Congress. I slept just as well in the '90s when we had a democratic president and a Republican Congress. We just had different scare stories back then that didn't turn out to be true. And there are a lot of things that could be better. Our schools, our tax system even the IRS doesn't understand, how the federal government spends the money.
I know. You're still mad. Surely, I've mentioned something that does keep you up late at night, but maybe, just maybe, working yourself up over China is just as silly as worrying about immigration. Maybe they're both grossly overblown as threats to our prosperity and way of life. Chill out. Read more arguments on the other side. The optimists usually have some decent arguments. Maybe they're right. Learn some economics. It's working for me.
Unless you're one of those people who likes to get steamed over the state of the world just for the sake of steaming, then I can't help you. But the rest of us really should sleep better. It's going to be okay. Really. Sweet dreams.
SIEGEL: Russell Roberts is a professor at George Mason University and a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He hosts the weekly podcast series, EconTalk.
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