Saturday, October 6, 2012

In flight entertainment

Found my self in something of an exchange with a conservative friend. I'd been watching him post exuberant status updates on facebook in the aftermath of Romney's debate performance (and President Obama's lack thereof) and I had to warn him that, much like in the NFL, in debate there's such a thing as excessive celebration. Careful or you guys will be kicking off the Biden/Ryan matchup from fifteen yards back, I told him. It was at about this point that I pictured him doing an exaggerated Michael Jackson backwards moon walk across the end zone of American public opinion, pantomime of a dance prop cane under one arm, sly grin on his face and winking as his hand traced the hat brim of his imaginary stylish fedora.

Then came the jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the best employment numbers in 44 months.

This had to be the worst good news anybody ever got. Unemployment back into the 7% range (albeit just barely) for the first time since Obama took office! It was positively galling. Then and there came the complaint that "The Press" was holding out this 7.8 % unemployment as positive news for Obama when the same number had served to describe what a mess Bush was leaving the economy in back at the beginning of Obama's term. How could this be?

Picture yourself in an airplane, I told him. When you are in a nose dive and your ears are popping and the ground keeps getting closer and closer and your engine is sputtering and belching smoke into your face and you're not sure the plane can handle the g-force of pulling out of the dive —it's then that "7.8" might represent a pretty scary altitude (or lack thereof). Once you have managed to break out of the dive and are maybe even on the slow —albeit too slow— ascent again —then suddenly "7.8" looks at least somewhat re-assuring.

No one should yet claim this economy is "all fixed" and we are rocketing for the heavens. My friend pointed this out and I had to agree with him there. I'm thinking of Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel as the more apt analogy. We still have to figure out how to engineer this aircraft —in flight. But as we face the decision we are all to make this November 6th,  the question becomes not only what we think of the man with the googles and flowing scarf and his hands on the stick (and maybe aerodynamically problematic ears), but whether Air Cadet Romney —who wants his turn at the controls so very badly— isn't suggesting we play the exact same game with the throttle and ailerons that we were playing just before we went into the dive.