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CARROLL: Take a look around; is it really all that bad?
David Carroll
David Carroll is a news anchor for WRCB in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Every election cycle, we see an onslaught of poll results. If we don’t agree with the polls, we are quick to say, “Who did they poll? Nobody polled me!” 

But if we agree with the polls, we treat them as gospel. “See there? The polls say so!” 

Pretty much every national poll agrees on one thing: Americans are unhappy. We don’t approve of how Biden has handled the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We believe Biden is responsible for inflation. We think Biden is to blame for high energy prices. His approval rating is down there with robocallers, the odor of Bradford pear trees, and people who let their dog “go” on your lawn. 

Look back a couple of years and we were unhappy then, too, according to the pollsters. Many blamed the spread of COVID-19 on Trump. Most were dissatisfied with the 10.2% unemployment rate. A USA Today poll showed 56% did not approve of his handling of race relations. 

Midterm elections are coming soon, and it’s a good bet that at least half of us will be unhappy with the results. I cannot imagine our mood being any brighter heading into the 2024 presidential election. 

But I have to ask: are things really THAT bad? My evidence is anecdotal for sure, but it’s worth talking about. 

I recently attended two Atlanta Braves games. Both games were near-sellouts, with around 40,000 people jammed into the stadium. Almost any time the Braves take the field, even on weekdays, at least 30,000 are in attendance. 

In this horrible, awful economy that everyone is complaining about, these people seem to have no problem shelling out 40 bucks for a parking space, 95 bucks for a decent seat, and hundreds more for hot dogs, drinks, desserts, jerseys, and souvenirs. Yet I can guarantee you that if a news crew aimed a camera and a microphone at them, most of these folks would angrily express their dissatisfaction with the current state of the economy. 

After each of those Braves games, I did what everyone else is doing if they’re traveling between Chattanooga and Atlanta. I stopped in at Buc-ees in Calhoun, Georgia. For those who haven’t been introduced to Buc-ees, this is the Macy’s of convenience stores. From the 120 gas pumps on the outside, to the islands of brisket sandwiches and homemade desserts, to the acres of beaver-adorned caps, T-shirts, and swimsuits, this place should have its own area code.

During my first visit, I witnessed another explosion of commerce. I waited in line behind a woman who was stocking up on sandwiches, peanut butter fudge brownies, and keychains to the tune of more than a hundred dollars. I shook my head in amazement. (Full disclosure. A few days later, my wife accompanied me into the store. This time, I was the one shelling out the big bucks. Note to self: distract her the next time we are approaching Exit 310). 

I have a feeling that most of the folks I saw at Buc-ees would tell any pollster how unhappy they are with the runaway gas prices and staggering inflation. But unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, they seemed pretty happy at the ballgame, and at the brisket superstore.

What’s the real story? The high gas prices don’t appear to have eased our daily traffic jams. Facebook tells me the beaches are buzzing again. The unemployment rate is down to 3.6% and jobs are available to anyone who wishes to work. Many folks who say they hate pandemic-era restrictions are privately happy to be working from home. 

Oddly, very few of us are celebrating this: After decades of wheel-spinning and empty talk, Congress has approved and funded infrastructure repairs. Soon we will all benefit from better roads, bridges, sewer pipes and water lines.

Yes, there are still problems that need to be solved. But unlike the people of Ukraine, we can go to bed tonight without fear of Russian rockets hitting our house. We can attend our kids’ games, eat at our favorite restaurant and worship at the church of our choice.

So, partisan politics aside, take a look around. Is it really that bad?

David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his new book “Hello Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.  You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at RadioTV2020@yahoo.com.