Nearly seven out of 10 polled by WSJ/NBC say they had been affected "a great deal" or "quite a bit" by higher gas prices. Well, they may feel that way, but it seems hard to believe they're experiencing any serious pinch, considering that the increases topped out at an extra $15 or so per fill up (and have been coming down for the better part of a month). Of course, the gasoline pump provides an instant snapshot of what we're paying (and how it compares with the previous trip), so while the additional dollars are not huge, they are noticeable - and they help stir a climate of negativity. From the WSJ:
Amid jitters over squeezed pocketbooks and a possible second recession, the poll found that only 29% of Americans think the economy will improve over the next year, while 30% think it will worsen. The last time the poll found more pessimists than optimists on the economy was in July 2008.
Such pessimism, while largely misplaced, takes on a life of its own - and the more downbeat consumers might be, the less enthused they'll be about buying a new outfit, much less a car or house. Unfortunately, the gloomy pattern is hard to break. What we really need is a collective slap in the face. How bout it?