NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If President Barack Obama's State of the Union and budget message are to be believed, Americans are on the cusp of the second Age of Pericles.

Obama says that the economy is booming, and with new taxes on the wealthy and free community college for all, lasting prosperity can be assured.

The truth, however, is that other than falling gas prices, the realities of everyday life are moribund, with rising food prices and local taxes, expensive compulsory health insurance, stagnant wages, and a jobs market that never seems to get much better for very long.

The Labor Department is expected to report that the economy added 230,000 jobs in January, down from the 289,000 averaged during the third quarter. The economy faces headwinds from falling oil prices, troubles in Asia and Europe, and monopoly barriers to investment and technologies that could accelerate growth.

Evidence is mounting that apprehensive Americans are using money saved at the gas pump to pay down debt and shore up savings, rather than spending to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, oil producers are cutting back on drilling, hurting industries ranging from drilling equipment to engineering consultants that divine where and how to poke holes in the ground to unlock black bounty.

Oil production will keep rising through much this year from wells already under development before prices started falling, but layoffs will accelerate in the oil and gas sector and supporting industries and communities where wildcatters spend their cash.

America looks so good because Europe looks so bad, China's growth machine is spurting oil, and Japan -- where women aren't having many babies and men abhor immigration -- is imploding.

Fearing the worst, Asian and European investors are sending money to America, boosting prices for Treasury securities, real estate in the tonier locations of New York and other other urban centers, and jacking up the value of the dollar against foreign currencies.

Accelerating the consequences of those private decisions, old-world central banks are printing huge amounts of money because their governments won't do sensible things such as abandon mindless austerity and the single currency in Europe, end reckless lending to overexpanded enterprises in China, and take measures to boost the birth rate in Japan.

The bottom line for Obama's new American paradise is that a strong dollar is strangling growth by raising prices for U.S. exports competing in global markets with products from Germany, Japan and Korea and artificially cheapening imports on U.S. store shelves. But for the resulting trade deficit, the U.S. economy would have grown 3.7% in the fourth quarter and created another 350,000 jobs.

Sadly, Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew simply refuse to do anything to insulate the U.S. economy from Asian and European mercantilism, even though economists right, left and center have offered solutions.

Federal policies have encouraged monopoly pricing by airlines, banks, broadband and cable providers, health insurance companies, hospitals, professional sports franchises and universities. Monopolies constrain supply and limit investments in new technology to enrich and provide comfortable lives for their shareholders and employees, but that limits investment, growth and jobs creation.

If you have a job with the New England Patriots, even a non-playing job, you are likely better off for the NFL's sweetheart TV deals, but most of us help finance that through ever-rising cable TV rates. If you are just an ordinary fan, you likely can't afford a seat at the game.

Alas it is the best of times and the worst of times.

If you are part of the chosen monopoly economy or the Washington cabal of analysts, lobbyists and politicians -- I plead guilty -- rising prices, political contributions, and consulting and media fees have made this your second Age of Pericles.

For most other Americans, it is the Middle Ages again. Like serfs, they are tied to jobs that they don't like or are dependent on government benefits -- until perhaps like the Greeks, they elect a populist instead of an elitist to be president.

Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and a national columnist. Follow him on Twitter @pmorici1.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor.