It has been almost four years since we were impacted by COVID-19. In the United States, the pandemic has left more than a million people dead and millions more with ongoing health problems. Much normal life came to a halt, partly because of official restrictions, but mainly because fear of infection kept people at home.
The big question in subsequent years was whether USA will reach fully recover from this impact. The answer came in 2023: yes. Actually, our society and our economy have done incredibly well.. The big question remains: when, if ever, will the population be ready to accept the good news.
Of course, in the short term, the pandemic has had serious economic and social consequences, in many ways broader and deeper than almost everyone expected. In a matter of weeks, employment fell by 25 million. Huge government aid eased economic hardship for families, but Americans’ continued purchasing power in the face of a battered economy meant that demand often outstripped supply, leaving supply chains overwhelmed and inflation soaring.
At the same time, the pandemic has limited social interaction and left many people feeling isolated. Psychological damage is difficult to measure, but deteriorating social connections have contributed to a number of negative trends, including an increase in violent crime.
It wasn’t hard to imagine that the pandemic experience would leave long-term scars, that long COVID and early retirement would lead to a permanent decline in the workforce, that falling inflation would mean high unemployment for several years, that rising crime would portend a continued rise in crime. crisis of public peace.
But none of this happened.
You may have heard good news on economic issues. Actually, labor participation — The percentage of adults in the current workforce is slightly higher than the Congressional Budget Office projected before the pandemic. Indicators Core inflation retreated to more or less the Federal Reserve’s two percent target, even though Unemployment is near a low not seen in 50 years. Adjusted for inflation, most workers’ wages have increased.
For some reason I haven’t heard crime news very often, but they are also very good. FBI data shows that violent crimes have decreased: They are back to 2019 levels and appear to be continuing to decline. Homicides may not have returned to 2019 levels, but they are falling sharply.
None of this erases the deaths caused by COVID or the alarming learning losses that have affected millions of students. But overall both Our economy and our society are now in much better shape than many would have predicted. from people in the early days of the pandemic, or from what most Americans are willing to admit.
Because if the United States’ resilience in the face of the pandemic has been remarkable, so has the public’s pessimism.
By now, anyone who writes about the economy is accustomed to emails and social media posts (which almost always begin with “Hey, idiot”) that They insist that official statistics relating to low unemployment and inflation are misleading.and not tell blatant lies. No, the CPI does not ignore food and energy, although some analytical indicators do; No, food prices do not continue to rise.
Rather than getting into further arguments with people who are desperate to find any justification for negative economic opinions, I find it more useful to note that no matter what American consumers say about the state of the economy, they are spending money as if their finances were very bad. solid. Last time, Looks like Christmas sales were pretty good..
What about crime? It’s an issue where public perception has long contrasted markedly with reality, with people telling pollsters that crime is rising even as it is falling rapidly. According to Gallup, 63 percent of Americans now think crime is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem in the United States, but only 17 percent say it is a very serious problem where they live.
Besides, Americans don’t act like they’re afraid of crime. As I’ve written before, in major city centers, weekend foot traffic (broadly speaking, the number of people coming into a city for leisure rather than work) has returned to pre-pandemic levels, which would not be expected if Americans were fleeing. cruel urban hell.
So, no matter what Americans tell sociologists, They behave as if they live in a prosperous and fairly safe country. (at historical levels) the country is represented by official statistics rather than public opinion polls. (Clarification: yes, there is an excellent inequality and social injusticebut it’s no worse now than in previous years, when Americans were much more optimistic).
Of course, the big question is whether dark narratives will prevail over relatively bright realities in the 2024 elections. regarding crime.
In any case, we need to know that the United States has responded very well to the economic and social challenges of a deadly pandemic. By most indicators, our country is on the mend. We hope so don’t lose our democracy before people realize it.
© New York Times, 2024