If the downturn is receding, why is my mood indigo?
FORTUNE — Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. So it’s reasonable to ask where the birdies is. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t see no birdies. I’m tense. I’m nervous. I guess you could say that my consumer confidence is sort of … leaky. Why should that be? All signs point to a slow and steady recovery. Slow and steady is good. As we know, it wins the race. And yet … there’s this pricking in my thumbs.
Perhaps I should consider the reasons why, as usual, I am wrong about this kind of thing.
First of all, and perhaps most important, there’s the market. Its fettle couldn’t be better. Uppity up up up it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows, except maybe Lloyd Blankfein. Also the hedge fund guys personally made billions of dollars last year. Billions! That’s gotta be evidence of a recovery. A few years ago those guys were making only hundreds of millions. Now they’re back.
Venture capitalists have so much money bulging from their jeans that they can barely fit through the metal detectors on their way to All Things D. If you’ve got an idea for an Internet application that can be a bright, shiny little toy in the eye of every 14-year-old for 10 minutes and go public right before it pops like a soap bubble, you could make $100 million in a couple of years. So credulity has returned as well, a solid building block in any drive for irrational growth.
Unemployment is going in the right direction too, unless you’re a fan of unemployment. I know some people are, at least for others, since too much employment can kick off an inflationary trend, and we all hate inflation. But there is no inflation. The 99% don’t have enough money to fuel it. And with the Fed in a state of permanent constipation, it doesn’t look as if there’s going to be any annoying bump in interest rates for a good long time.
The other numbers aren’t so bad either. The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. increased 0.7% in February to 95.5, following a 0.2% increase in January and a 0.5% increase in December. “Continued broad-based gains in the LEI for the United States confirm a more positive outlook for general economic activity in the first half of 2012,” said one of their economists. Another added, “Recent data reflect an economy that improved this winter.” I think it’s a positive sign that the Conference Board can afford to employ more than one economist. When economists thrive, we all prosper.
And then there’s the entire political situation, whatever that is. The way I look at it, there are two possibilities. The Republicans could take over in November, leading to tax legislation that would favor those who have money over those who don’t and a host of regressive measures that would be good for business. Or the President could triumph, leading to four more years of an obstructionist Congress that would block any attempts at sensible regulation and economic reform, which will be good for business.
So why do I feel as if I may have left the stove on and I’m miles from home?
Perhaps it’s the news that three major banks are on the verge of being radically downgraded by Moody’s, including the one where I have my checking account, and another where I keep whatever piddling lucre I have managed to sock away for my gold-plate years. Maybe it’s the whole debt thing, which nearly brought us all down last summer and hasn’t been solved, and won’t be either. Or maybe it’s this pain in my knee that developed when I set the incline on the treadmill too high a few months ago.
Yeah, that must be it. My knee hurts. I’ll just take some drugs, have a couple of drinks, and forget about it. That should help me get with the program.
This story is from the April 30, 2012 issue of Fortune.