The Hated Good Economy

Random generic image about the economy…

The United Auto Workers settled with the Big Three Automakers, and got a great deal, one that enables them to have a living wage and eliminates concessions they made during the Great Recession to help save the auto industry.

This should be a feather in Biden’s cap, given his promotion of organized labor. But it barely made a dent in the news.

I understand that the Gaza horrors are dominating the news right now, but this was a pretty big deal. The potential for positive ripple effects across the economy for working Americans is clear, but it just did not make an impact on the national psyche. Which is pretty upset about the economy right now.

Our economic mood is quite sour, and yet, many of the numbers are super positive (but not all, more on that below). As economist Justin Wolfers discussed in his Nov. 1 appearance on Molly Jong-Fast’s Fast Politics, there are economic numbers that are pretty astounding.

Wolfers has an interesting way to look at these numbers. He says, imagine if you have been asleep for the last four years, fell asleep in say August 2019, and just woke up. And to make this scenario a little bit more hellish, you are an economist. After dealing with the inevitable bed sores from sleeping for four years, you go look at the data and wonder what awesome thing happened while you were asleep.

Unemployment is 3.9%, after ticking up a bit Friday from September’s 3.8%. The GDP grew at a 4.9% rate, which is outstanding. This growth was largely driven by consumer spending, which had grown significantly in the third quarter.

If you were this mythical long-slumbering economist, Wolfers posits, if you told them that the biggest event over the four years was a pandemic that killed over 1.1 million Americans, you would probably get stared at in disbelief.

Despite this, Biden is struggling with the public perception that the economy is in shambles. Last month, just 16% felt the economy was even “somewhat good.” Other polls show similar, including a large swath of the nation who believe the economy is getting worse, or that we are in a recession.

Some of this is, of course, partisan politics. Republicans thought the economy was instantly better as soon as Trump became president. Some of it is an uncanny ability for many in the public to be wrong (see also beliefs that crime is always “the worst it’s ever been” that are not backed up at all by any statistic).

Biden has a huge workload in front of him to convince Americans that the economy really is better. Promote the economy, with a few caveats. You don’t get huge consumer spending like we just had without it being a good economy for a lot of people, and over and over and over again, polls find that people think their personal finances are fine but somehow the overall economy is for shit. Income inequality has decreased. Jobs are plentiful and all of the “nobody wants to work anymore” nonsense is based on low-pay jobs not being filled because people are leaving for much better jobs.

On the flip side, higher ed, healthcare, and housing are MASSIVE issues (especially for young people) and Biden would do well with proposing fixes to these that include getting Democratic majorities so we can actually do them. Acknowledge that while inflation has slowed greatly, prices are still tough for people to deal with and propose fixes. And be very careful, in this era where even the smallest blunder is magnified on social media, about not seeming dismissive about these concerns.

It is crazy and pretty concerning that we have a nation that isn’t seeing the things that Biden is doing that are actually good. The good news is, that the Democrats have a year to fix that.

The last word goes to Rising Appalachia.

2 thoughts on “The Hated Good Economy

  1. Americans (and, I suspect, many low information voters in lots of other countries as well) have responded to most surveys conducted throughout most of my adult life that the economy is terrible and that things are moving in the wrong direction. People are so ignorant, it makes me have little hope for my country.

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