What Halloween says about our economy

In a few days, voters will be walking into polling stations all across the US to choose who they want to be the next President of the United States of America. Or rather who they don’t want as the next President. Lesser of evils and all.

But I digress. For months we have heard how this is the most important election in American history, usually from the people who said the same thing four years ago and will probably repeat the claim four years from now. It is just an election. And come the morning of November 9th, whether we like the results or not, life will go on.

Yet election 2016 seems different than what we have seen in years past. This go-around seems to be fueled by two elements: fear and anger. I get it; people are scared and mad. Why? Well, as one campaign strategist stated during the 1992 campaign season, “The economy, stupid.”

Of course, it doesn’t help when one of our two major candidates says things like:
“We’re in a big, fat, ugly bubble and we better be awfully careful. When they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen.”
“It’s not just the political system that's rigged, it’s the whole economy.”
“We have a country that's doing so badly, that's being ripped off by every single country in the world.”
“There is practically not a country that does business with the United States that isn’t making – let’s call it a very big profit.”
“If we don’t, things are just going to had in a direction that's going to be almost impossible to recover from.”
“Our country is in deep trouble.”
“We're losing our jobs, so many of them.”
“Our country is losing so much.”
“We’re a debtor nation. We’re a serious debtor nation.”
“We’ve become a third world country.”
“We have the greatest mess anyone’s ever seen.”

If this is this voice, or others like it are the predominant sources of “truth” in your life, then fearful and furious would be the most logical emotional state to occupy your being.

But is it really that bad?

In 1980, then nominee Ronald Reagan posed a question that has been asked many times in the 36 years since: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Are you? I know I am. And I’m not alone in that sentiment. Polls taken all over the US reveal similar statistics. More people are agreeing that they are better off now than they were around the time we elected Obama into his first term. I know not everyone thinks we are living in a better America, that is why Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is so powerful. Too many people feel weak and powerless. Too many people believe like America is in shambles. Too many people fear our economy is in the toilet and on the verge of being flushed.

But is it really that bad?

Monday night, I took the kids out trick-or-treating. While out celebrating Halloween, I noticed a few details that seem to contradict the doom and gloom Trump preaches at his rallies.

1. I saw far more kids out trick-or-treating than I have in recent years. People have long complained that year after year, fewer kids show up at their door looking for candy. That could be due to more parents seeking safer alternatives like community trunk-or-treat events or church harvest parties. But this year, the neighborhood was packed with kids, bringing back memories of what it was like in the 80s. A few houses we visited had actually ran out of candy – they were not prepared to see so many kids.
2. I saw more parents dressed up in costume while they escorted their kids. Sure, we as parents always make sure our kids have a costume, but the money to spend on costumes for ourselves is a luxury.
3. My kids received full-sized candy bars in their buckets. There were a few houses that skipped the bite-sized, fun-sized, variety packs of candy, they went straight to the big stuff. One acquaintance of mine reported handing out 80 full-sized candy bars. In all of the years taking my kids trick-or-treating (note: Christian is 12), this is the first year I have seen anyone handing out full sized bars.
4. My neighbor left a bowl of candy outside his door with this wonderful sign posted above it. Strategy like this risks the possibility of an enterprising youngster dumping the contents of the bowl into their own bag, leaving behind a few empty wrappers for future trick-or-treaters. I haven’t seen anyone this trusting with Halloween treats since Shane and I did it in 1999.

Is the economy crashing? Maybe. I’m not an economist though and my college economics class was a primary reason I never completed my business administration degree. So I might not be the most qualified to speak to our nation’s financial stability or future. However, from a layman’s perspective I am not convinced we’re (as Trump claims) a third world country in deep trouble and the biggest mess anyone has ever seen. After what I saw on Halloween, I’d say our future is bright.

If our economy was a dire mess teetering on disaster, I don’t think I would have seen so many kids out in the neighborhood. I don’t think I would have observed as many grown-ups in costume. I doubt any one would have been giving away full-sized candy bars. And I am skeptical anyone would have left a bowl of candy on their porch with little more than the honor system to govern its distribution.

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