Americans Have Jobs, But Can Barely Afford Gas, Mortgages

Gas prices and mortgage rates could be the winner Democrats have been looking for these last six years.

Bush administration economists are right to say the usual signs point to a strong economy that people ought to be happy about. But if they don't recognize everyday truths, the vibrant economy will only make them look like out-of-touch fools.

Yes, the economy is good. But, yes, the economy is also bad.

Low unemployment is good. The Dow busting 11,000 is good. Corporate profits are good to a point, but then it becomes an embarrassment.

But the real elements of any American's perception of the economy are the big three: Do I have a job? Do gas prices hurt and make me worried? Can I afford to make my house payment?

Two out of three ain't bad, as Meatloaf said. But one out of three is a disaster. If all the cheerleaders can say is, "Hey, you've got a job," the average American says, "Uh oh, this isn't good."

Why? Because Mr. or Mrs. America sees the gas pump everyday, and because the biggest payment in his or her life is the mortgage payment.

If those are rising, especially if they're shooting up and seem to be out of control, the average American says the economy is not good. Yes, I've got my job, but $4/gallon is going to kill me, and if my mortgage rate goes up into the eights and nines, I'm going to meltdown like "The China Syndrome."

On his Monday show, my friend Neil Cavuto correctly put part of the blame for high gasoline prices on enviros who won't allow new refinery construction. Part of the price problem is scarcity. Gas station tanks were going dry last week all along the northeast corridor.

Enviros are also to blame for making certain we do not produce oil here at home.

There may not be a quick and ready solution to high gas prices, but the worst thing you can tell the average American is it doesn't matter, the economy can afford it. All that tells Mr. and Mrs. America is we think you don't matter and when you go under we're not even going to notice.

That's a terrible election year message.

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