In a buoyant economy like this, why do so many feel the grip of creeping gloom? In the 3rd quarter of 2018, the US GDP grew by 3%. Inflation scored a tame 1.6%. There are 7.3 million job openings available – more jobs available than there are unemployed people – 6.5 million in January 2019. For the half of adults who are invested in the stock market, market conditions are “OK,” neither rosy nor sour. Seven out of ten US adults think they will be better off next year. “The major economic cues are telling Americans that the economy is fairly healthy or at least not facing imminent problems.” People feel the economy is resilient, despite running headlong into shackles such as $4 trillion consumer debt by the end of 2018.
Why then does the nation hold a glum assessment of whether we are headed in the right or wrong track and whether our politicians are doing a good job? As of Feb 12th, 58% of those surveyed by IPSOS and Reuters say the US is on the wrong track, (84% of Democrats and 57% of Independents). Those surveyed say the top two problems needing attention are healthcare (19%) and immigration (18%). Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job done by our Congressional representatives. Only fifty seven percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job done by President Trump.
The economy seems fine, but Americans regard their leadership as substandard.
Americans expect our leaders to set the tone, articulate the big picture goals, and bring about collaboration on shared goals. We have been short changed in that regard. Our progressive politicians have been duty-derelict by encouraging identity politics (a full-time search for victimhood) and an unending parade of entitlements.
To her eventual embarrassment, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal (the one she pulled down from her website) is teed up for a vote in the Senate. Her New Deal contains a litany of traditional Marxist promises devoid of credible suggestions on how to pay for them. The bill promises universal entitlements: a family-sustaining wage with family and medical leave, vacations, retirement security, higher education, trade schools, health care, food, housing, and economic security whether you choose to work or not.
Ocasio-Cortez is understandably non-specific on how to fund all that largesse, let alone explain how long-standing obligations such as the institutional debts of Medicare, Social Security, and other government debt repayment will be honored. Her bill also genuflects toward the Paris Climate Accord and vows to revamp agriculture, businesses, transportation, factories, and power generation into net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Strangely, she has a fear of methane from cows and seems unsure how to eradicate them from her low carbon world.
That ultra-progressive stance is becoming one of the few shared values among Democrats. Among Americans who lived during the cold war, the claptrap about free (but shoddy) entitlements and central economy planning is all too familiar. It didn’t work then, and it will not work now. Politicians who recommend it will have limited appeal, but in the interim they can do serious damage to our well-functioning society.
The White House has engaged in destructive posturing and trade blockages. Our major trading and one-time worldview partners in the European Union and United Kingdom are mired in shaky economies and frayed loyalties. George Soros says the EU “current leadership is reminiscent of the politburo when the Soviet Union collapsed — continuing to issue ukazes as if they were still relevant.”
China is patiently outwaiting the US on trade practices. China refuses to cease forcing technology transfers as a condition of trading with the US. Meanwhile, China is cementing trade relations with its large, prosperous neighboring states.
The US economy is functioning well and producing plentiful opportunities for American workers to take, but our political climate is far less wholesome. Some politicians are selling leftist snake oil, especially to those gullible enough to believe in a “free lunch.” Others are encouraging identity politics (victimhood) as both virtues signaling and an alternative to a meaningful education.
Alternatively, some politicians are genuinely looking for constructive common ground on economic and social issues. Others are seeking pragmatic ways to keep the economy flourishing. We have faith that Americans consumers can see the truth and act accordingly.