Is Trump's optimism about a quick economic recovery backfiring on the "reopen now" crowd?

This Axios post grabbed my attention because it’s part of an apparent trend of workers seeming waaaaay too optimistic about their employment prospects given the depths of the economic misery we’re in. And since most economists are quite blunt about how deep the hole is, we’re left wondering where the public is getting the impression that a turnaround will be quick and easy-ish.

The only public figure I can think of who routinely heralds a coming economic rebound fueled by pent-up demand is Trump himself. Even his top aides like Steve Mnuchin are a little more cautious about the timetable for a recovery. (Although only a little.)

“Americans don’t realize that coronavirus recovery may take months,” says Axios. That appears to be true.

The NFIB’s latest small business optimism survey showed that a “collapse in sales has led to lower earnings and dampened employment prospects for months to come.”

“However, small business owners remain optimistic in the face of adversity as more expect the economy to improve … and expect the recession to be short-lived.”

Business expectations over the next six months jumped by 24 points from March.

And the outlook for business conditions in April rose to the highest in more than 18 months.

Fully 78 percent of unemployed workers believe their recent layoff is temporary. That reminded me of the WaPo poll I wrote about yesterday, which found — counterintuitively — that people who have been laid off prioritize stopping the virus over getting back to work. I floated a bunch of reasons why that might be, but this one stuck out to me:

Three quarters of unemployed workers expect to be back on the job before summer’s end. Er…

Question: How many workers are riding this out right now, siding against Trump on reopening ASAP, because they’re under the mistaken impression that a near-term V-shaped recovery is coming? If the president shifted to a gloomier economic message, that we’re facing years of protracted stagnation and joblessness unless we start scrambling now to get businesses going again, how many of those same workers would shift to the “reopen now” camp? Especially if that message were combined with warnings that we can’t afford our current more lucrative unemployment benefits forever.

Another piece of data for you, this time from Wisconsin. As in WaPo’s national poll yesterday, we find that workers are less gung ho to reopen soon than business owners are even though wage-earners surely have less of a financial cushion than their bosses do. Maybe that’s another byproduct of unemployment benefits influencing policy opinions, or maybe it’s just business owners necessarily having to pay more attention to the big-picture economic forecast.

Either way, there’s plenty of evidence out today that more people are coming around to Trump’s position that the lockdown era is over. More Americans are venturing out of the home…

…and more are preparing to participate in activities that they’ve been avoiding:

Most of the public still prefers social distancing as long as necessary in the name of limiting the spread over ending social distancing to facilitate renewed economic activity…

…but again, “as long as necessary” may mean different things to different people. If you’re a laid-off worker who incorrectly thinks it means “for another month or two, until the spread has been minimized and you’re rehired,” of course you’ll prefer social distancing. If in reality it means being out of work for the next year, you may think differently. Republicans already do, in fact, with 55 percent saying they’re more concerned about the economy than public health and 38 percent saying otherwise. That’s still a minority position among the total population, but check back in a month.

Here’s Meghan McCain complaining on “The View” today that the media is underplaying the economic consequences of the lockdown.

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