Curb your enthusiasm for 2011, a ‘so-so’ sort of year

“so-so: Informal, adjective (postpositive): neither good nor bad.” —

It’s been said that “flat” is the new “up,” which is really a downer for those of us who liked the old “up.” But if this new blasé reality is true, then it stands to reason “so-so” is the new “super.” And 2011 was an absolutely “super” year, because it just couldn’t have been more quintessentially “so-so.”

The economy was the embodiment of a slumberly so-so in the last year. After a dismal 2008 and 2009, when markets crashed, bubbles burst and dreams of early retirement went “flush,” followed by a volatile 2010, the American economy managed to grow consistently in 2011 — albeit at the pace of an inebriated snail on the verge of a carb nap. The economy eked out between a half percent and 2 percent growth, quarter over quarter, during the last calendar year.

Not great, but not as bad as ‘08. In 2011, our economy was super-duper so-so.

The optimists (and incumbent presidents) in our midst will point to this re-emergence of a steadily growing economy as reason to be grateful. It could, in fact, be worse. But the optimists (and incumbent presidents) will forgive the 9 percent of Americans who can’t find a job for not grabbing the nearest bottle of bubbly and chugging it in celebration of 2011. The economy is a rotten dog, albeit a stabilizing one. If that’s not so-so, I don’t know what is.

For conservatives, 2011 was for sure a so-so kind of year. On the plus side, the liberals in Washington failed to enact another fiscal feces burger, as they did with Obamacare in 2010 and the $1 trillion stimulus boondoggle in 2009. Thanks to a Republican-controlled House, the fiscal mess in Washington didn’t get worse as quickly as it might have.

On the down side of the right-wing ledger, I don’t remember seeing “VOTE REPUBLICAN: BECAUSE IT WON’T GET WORSE AS FAST AS IT MIGHT HAVE” on bumper stickers last fall.

The news was equally so-so for liberals in 2011. Side-stepping Congress, President Barack Obama used the power of the presidency to push through a host of job-killing regulations — something for liberals to cheer. Meanwhile, liberals found their collective voice in the tent cities and unwashed arm pits of the “Occupy” movement. Positive developments for those sharing this viewpoint, to be sure.

But it wasn’t all hearty adulation for progressives, either. Of note, a massive job-killing tax increase in Colorado was defeated in almost every county, which means that lovers of higher taxes will have to continue to voluntarily send more money to the state and federal treasury. For liberals, that may have been the biggest downer of 2011.

The long arm of the “so-so” reached beyond weighty matters of state and into the realm of technology, celebrity and sports, as well.

In 2011, we witnessed a continued technological renaissance, on the leading edge of which was the release of the groundbreaking new iPhone. But for anyone who subscribes to AT&T — the same AT&T whose cell service is more prone to drops than a one-armed wall paper hanger — technology in 2011 felt a lot like “one step forward, two steps back.”

In the realm of celebrity, there was a whole lot of so-so. And the award for biggest so-so goes to (drum roll) Kim Kardashian — whose marriage to an NBA backbencher netted her big fat bucks, but whose weeks-later divorce made America wonder why it is that anyone would want to keep up with the Kardashians.

Sports lovers in Colorado had a head-on collision with so-so. A powerful movement called Tebow-nation was birthed, and many an I-told-you-so type was belted by the lovers of Timmy Time for ever doubting the chosen one.

But, like Kardashian’s marriage, the Mile High Messiah’s improbable run came to an end in about six weeks. And after getting thumped by the feeble Buffalo Bills, a chorus of I-told-you-so’s flew the other way.

Good news all around in sports? Not hardly. Don’t forget the NBA strike ended in 2011 as well.

And so it was — a year defined by so-so at a time when flat is the new up, and so-so is the new super. I liked the old super better but, as that unprinted bumper sticker says, at least things didn’t get worse as quickly as they might have.


Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate and a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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