The Economy is Less Bad For Some, Still Bad For Others
FiveThirty-Eight offers a thoughtful article with a misleading title: The Economy is Better. Why Don’t Voters Believe It?
This is one of the central paradoxes of the 2016 presidential campaign. The economy is, by virtually any measure, drastically improved from when President Obama took office nearly seven years ago. And yet poll after poll reveals a national electorate that is deeply skeptical of that progress. In one recent Wall Street Journal poll, more than half of voters said the economic and political system was “stacked against people like me.” That sense of alienation has fueled the insurgent candidacies of Trump and Bernie Sanders, and led even establishment candidates to emphasize inequality, middle-class stagnation and related issues.
I write ‘misleading’ because FiveThirty-Eight answers their own question, but refuses to accept it.
The easiest explanation for this paradox is that it isn’t a paradox at all: Americans are pessimistic about the economy because, for many of them, the economy hasn’t gotten better. Unemployment is down, but incomes are flat. Millions of Americans left the labor force in the recession and haven’t returned. Millions more are stuck in low-wage jobs or are working part time because they can’t find full-time work.
Since the Great Recession, hardly anyone trusts the people that tell us the economy is great (cough, Jim Cramer, cough, Ben Stein, cough). We don’t even believe Robert Reich when he tells us that we can grow our way out of debt.
Many of us are spending more on necessities, and giving up luxuries. Many of us know people that are essentially unemployed, living off relatives, and abusing alcohol, meth, even heroin. One might dismiss them as ne’er-do-wells, but most of these people used to have good jobs.
FiveThirty-Eight goes on to show us all sorts of people that are doing well – but so what. I know some people that are doing well. I just know more that aren’t.