Toward the end of Bush's second term and all through Obama's, America (and the world) has been in economic decline. People like to point to various statistics on growth, employment, and inflation, but ultimately, all those amount to nebulous ink blot tests, sending ever-changing (and sometimes conflicting) signals. More telling than any graph or testimony from the Fed are the economic indicators we see every day, which tell us that nothing has gotten any better for about five years.
Good thing five years is the wood anniversary, because in this economy, most presents will come from IKEA.
#4. Sneaky Job Listings
Despite all the hard times, there are still some people lucky enough not to be affected by the economy and stupid enough not to keep their mouths shut. They say things like "I don't know what everyone's talking about. I see plenty of job listings online." And then the conversation is over. Point proven. Success is out there waiting for you, they believe. You just gotta grab it! But I'd suggest that these folks take a closer look at the job listings they're touting, because they're not invitations to a brighter future, but proof of nothing other than corporate America's creativity in turning a profit.
There has never been and will never be a depression so bad that businesses can't come up with a listing:
"Fortune 500 company seeks energetic individual to assist in cutting costs and reducing overhead by ... murdering half our employees."
"Says here you must be proficient in wielding blunt instruments and Microsoft Excel."
Or sometimes they'll combine two jobs in the hopes of hiring one new guy to replace two older employees, even if the jobs have nothing to do with each other:
"Seeking Industrial Chemist/Panini Chef. Must be able to synthesize complex chemical compounds and make those adorable little sandwiches we like for the company picnic."
Creating jobs and sustainable careers is the hard part. Listing jobs is easy, and any close review of what's really being offered (or not offered) tells you far more about the economy than the number of entries on Monster.com.
#3. Food Keeps Shrinking
One of the biggest signs of economic hardship is the hardest to see. That's because it's shrinking. Specifically, food is shrinking: boxes of pasta, cans of tuna fish. Increasingly, you're getting less food for the same money. The cost of raw materials is up, but with high unemployment, food companies are hiding the screwing you're getting, because increased prices would just lead to riots.
Hidden screwing is not like a sexy game of hide and seek.
For example, when I was a kid, you could make at least two full sandwiches from a can of tuna and have extra left over for some crackers. Today?
Pictured above: parent feeding child a full can of tuna.
So I guess my point is that politicians can point to their pie charts in an attempt to prove that the economy is on the mend, but odds are that pie no longer feeds a family of five.