Monday, October 23, 2006
George Will: Economic Hypocondria
Economic hypochondria, a derangement associated with affluence, is a byproduct of the welfare state: An entitlement mentality gives Americans a low pain threshold — witness their recurring hysteria about nominal rather than real gasoline prices — and a sense of being entitled to economic dynamism without the frictions and "creative destruction" that must accompany dynamism. Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase "good news" an oxymoron, even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs.
The Jack No. 2 well, in deep water 170 miles southwest of New Orleans, recently discovered a field with perhaps 15 billion barrels of oil — a 50 percent increase in proven U.S. reserves. This news triggered a gusher of journalistic gloom: More oil means more woe — a reprieve for that enemy of humanity, the internal combustion engine, and more global warming, more air pollution, more highway fatalities, more suburban sprawl.
President Bush's tax cuts were supposed to cause a cataract of red ink. In fiscal 2006, however, federal revenue as a share of GDP was 18.4 percent, slightly above the post-1962 average of 18.2. And the federal budget deficit was $247.7 billion, just 1.9 percent of the $13.1 trillion GDP. That is below the average for the 1970s (2.1), 1980s (3.0) and 1990s (2.2).