Anxiety and angst are not just privileged, possibly hackneyed, existential ponderings or even real forms of depression, but are entangled with the notion of boredom, which is a concept that Wallace allows to open "outward" onto the world, as it were, instead of shrinking "inward" to the individual.
Wallace's ideas about boredom, too, will be added to the mix.
This is clearly a decade of anxiety and boredom (witnessed by the new drugs, which are meant to "focus" the distracted user), entertainment (TV shows, movies, and commercials), trends (disco), commodification of "culture" (shirts of Happy Days [itself a '50s nostalgia show] and of the '60s via underground comics [Robert Crumb]), signs and simulacra (fake wood paneling), and "spectacular" media events masking as political intrigue (Carter and Muskie).
The resonance with the theme of boredom is made abundantly clear when Fogle remembers how "Jimmy Carter was ridiculed for calling [the state America was in a] 'malaise' and telling the nation to snap out of it" (223).
It is precisely this boredom as cultural "malaise" that leaves people desperate for stimulation in the form of ever-newer products and images, and makes them more susceptible to going along with the cash flow, so to speak.
So it was that the character of "President Reagan," performed so well by former actor Ronald Reagan, projected a seemingly unifying, but ultimately obscuring, image over a fractured, postindustrial America--and an image that nonetheless fed off the nihilistic boredom and "rebellion" of the burnt-out 1970s.
In using the IRS as representative of neoliberalism in general, The Pale King is able to connect neoliberalism back to boredom in an illuminating way.