January 26, 2011
By Rick Newman
There are plenty of things wrong with the U.S. economy, and practically everybody knows what they are. Unemployment is way too high. Pay is stagnant, and raises scarce. Government debt is out of control. For many, it feels like it's harder to get ahead. And America as a whole seems to offer fewer opportunities.
There's plenty of data that suggests that's all true. Yet America remains one of the most comfortable places in the world to live, and prosperity is still well within many people's reach. It just depends on how you define it. . .
Nobody disputes the fact that high unemployment, soaring healthcare costs, and a turbulent economy have caused hardship for too many Americans. And the middle class appears to be shrinking, with fewer haves and more have-nots. Despite all that, however, longer-term gains in quality of life remain largely intact—including many improvements we tend to take for granted.
"People care about more than GDP," says Michael Cox, a professor at Southern Methodist University and former chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. "Living standards also involve leisure time and recreation, variety in choice of diet, working conditions, and safety and security. And most of those things are still getting better."
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