4 Ways You Can Tell the Economy Still Sucks

#2. Politicians Keep Playing to the Extremes Because There Are No Answers for the Majority in the Middle

I'm not going to blow anyone's doors off by taking the controversial position that most politicians spend their careers spewing mindless rhetoric about the economy. We all know that. But these days, the rhetoric -- still mindless -- just seems more polarized and impotent than ever.

You know who's not complaining more about the economy in the last five years? The very poor. Why? Because from the start of time, the very poor have been getting screwed. This is nothing new to them. And what about the very rich? Well, no doubt they've suffered losses, but for the kind of rich I'm talking about, they've been affected by how much of an estate they will be leaving their great-grandchildren. The people who've noticed the biggest change in the last five years are those in between.

Politicians call that the "middle-class squeeze," and that's about all they have to say about it, because they have nothing to offer. Instead, they stress their policy at the extremes. Republicans push for tax breaks for the very rich, while Obama comes forth with a plan to increase the minimum wage for the very poor.

John W. Adkisson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"And cleaner streets for the homeless!"

A riot of the disenfranchised is brewing. More middle-class Democrats will soon not forgive Obama's minimum wage rhetoric just because he says the right things about gays and women's reproductive rights. An increasing number of middle-class Republicans will stop accepting that their party pushes tax breaks they're not rich enough to receive simply because the GOP is better friends with Jesus. People are getting fed up, and if there's a middle-class squeeze, it's because most of the hard-working Democratic and Republican voters are being shoved together in a desperate attempt to avoid the crap their parties are spewing at the extremes.

#1. Socialism Is Seeming Less Scary

I have a friend who listens to a lot of conservative talk radio, and consequently, he sometimes says very foolish things. He'd been hearing a lot about how America isn't America anymore because we're becoming a more socialist nation. Now, typically, when conservatives say that, it's meant to scare Americans into fearing the death of everything America stood for: freedom, capitalism, and the American dream. And typically, when they go down that road, the Obama leftist pinko rhetoric starts to fly, but that's not where my friend was going with this.

He sees people willingly embracing increasingly more socialist notions of government assistance -- even being OK with being taxed for it -- and his natural conclusion is that America is getting less selfish. That we are caring about our neighbors more than ever before. My friend, of course, is wrong. America will never be that. Most of the world is not like that either. That's why, when you hear stories of people in Denmark and such hiding Jews during the Holocaust, you just kind of stop and stare at that kind of person who is something beyond holy. It's something we almost have no frame of reference for.

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
Much like the success of the band fun., it just makes no sense.

No, people are not getting better. People are getting more scared. People are realizing that the system is broken. Maybe it was always a lie, but it used to be a lot easier to shake your head at failures and say, That could never be me. That guy with no house and no money ... he must be lazy or stupid. He must have embezzled or abused drugs. There must be a reason he has nothing. But more and more today, we see people with two degrees and no money. We see people who undertook student loan debt, leveraging their future for jobs that simply don't exist to pay off that debt. We see white-collar professionals nickel and dimed into blue-collar existences. There are good people who've lost their homes and self-respect. The world has gotten so hard for so many that we know it can happen to us.

If Americans are less scared by the notions of bigger government and taxes providing safety nets against the abuses of capitalism, it's not because we care more about our neighbors. It's because we're scared for ourselves. These days, being taxed for social programs seems a lot more like purchasing an insurance policy for the day you draw the short straw in a rigged game. But that might look like human compassion, and I can see why my friend was confused. In any event, you'll know that the economy's actually getting better when everyday Americans start dumping on the poor again.

Watch the new HATE BY NUMBERS, where Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas recruits Britney Spears to make even worse music. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.

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