By MARC MCDONALD
Things are looking grim for the U.S. economy these days, the politicians and the MSM pundits tell us.
I'm glad they finally noticed. The fact is, tens of millions of Americans have already been living through increasingly lean times over the past decade.
It took a stock market crisis for the Wall Street crowd to finally notice that the nation's economy is going down the tubes.
But that's hardly news for millions of average American workers, who've seen their incomes stagnate since 1980.
For years, the pundits and the politicians celebrated "strong" economic growth when the rest of us were wondering what they were talking about. The pundits also cheered America's low jobless rate. But the rest of us knew it was all a sham, in an era when millions of jobs pay such low wages that nobody could possibly live on them.
Hard economic times are nothing new for the tens of millions of Americans who already work two or three jobs, just to make ends meet. Or the nearly 50 million Americans who can't afford health insurance. Or the 2 million Americans who are about to lose their homes in the mortgage crisis.
I once had a friend from Europe who came to visit me in New York City. He told me that the American economy was widely celebrated then in Europe and that many Europeans marveled at America's entrepreneurial spirit and low unemployment rate.
I explained to my European friend that although America's economy was then in the midst of what the pundits called "prosperity" and was enjoying a stock market boom, the reality was that millions of Americans were left out in the cold and were still struggling.
At the time, my friend and I were in a bustling, prosperous part of Manhattan. Looking around, it appeared that the nation was indeed economically prosperous. I then took my friend on a short tour through surrounding areas, including Harlem, Brooklyn, and Newark. My friend was astonished at the stark difference between the prosperity he'd just seen in Manhattan and the horrible, Third World-like poverty that was only a short distance away.
This episode reminds me of what is going on today. The pundits and politicians are finally starting to wake up to something that's been obvious to millions of us for years. The American economy is in the toilet.
Sure, a tiny elite wealthy class has been enjoying strong stock market gains for years. Now, they're going to have to share some of the pain, like the rest of us.
In fact, in looking at the economic hard times ahead, I think there's actually a silver lining to all of this. That is: an economically distressed America will finally be forced to end its illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.