ROBERT SAMUELSON: The economy is better than we think. “Although a recovery — as defined by academic economists — started about two years ago, it hasn’t felt like one. Of the 8.7 million payroll jobs lost in the recession, only 1.8 million have returned. The recovery rivals the slowest since World War II and faces continued threats. High oil prices. Europe’s debt crisis. Unexpected inflation. Washington’s bickering over the federal debt ceiling. All true. But it’s also true that the recovery seems increasingly self-propelled. Americans are shopping again, albeit with less fervor; exports are improving; companies are hiring. Massive government spending and the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates seem less crucial to growth. Although this is good news, the pervasive post-crisis gloom prevents us from acknowledging it.” Hmm.

UPDATE: A Wall Street reader emails:

What does it say about the Washington Post, that its economics columnist describes the current round of price hikes as “unexpected inflation”? Either the Post’s editors are stupid, their scribe is stupid, or they think their readers are stupid. I think I know the answer.

Well, it’s been “unexpected” for a lot of people, it seems.