And it’s not as if it was all that terrific before now, either. Gallup’s weekly survey of consumer confidence shows a steep 10-point drop from -16 at the end of May to -26 today:
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index was -26 for the week ending June 24, down slightly from -24 the week before. Americans’ confidence has now receded for four straight weeks, and is at the lowest point since late January.
U.S. economic confidence last week was hardest hit June 19-21, when it fell to -28, but it bounced back to -25 over the weekend. The midweek slide may have resulted from the anticipated Moody’s downgrade of several major banks and one of the worst trading days of the year on Thursday. However, the market rallied back on Friday, which may have led to the weekend improvement in confidence.
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index consists of two measures — one assessing current economic conditions and the other assessing the nation’s economic outlook. Americans’ perceptions of current economic conditions worsened to -31, down four from the previous week, with 44% saying the economy is poor and 13% saying it is excellent or good. Attitudes about the economic outlook were down marginally last week, at -21.
Rasmussen sees the same trend:
The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures consumer confidence on a daily basis, held steady on Tuesday at 81.2 after falling to its lowest level since January Sunday. The Consumer Index shows little change from a week ago but is down 12 points from a month ago and three months ago.
Today’s level of confidence is 16 points below the 2012 high water mark and is just two points above the lowest level of this year.
Thirty-two percent (32%) of consumers rate their personal finances as good or excellent while 23% rate them as poor.
Their current level is also ten points below their May rating. The results of both polls show a growing discontent with the economy and fear of its future — a bad sign for an incumbent President standing for re-election in four months. Unless consumer sentiment reverses soon, these indexes indicate that Americans will take a decidedly negative view of Obama’s economy into the voting booth with them.
They may be helped along with that evaluation by the Obama administration itself. CNN reports that the USDA is now advertising to get people to enroll in the food-stamp program:
More than one in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the federal government wants even more people to sign up for the safety net program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been running radio ads for the past four months encouraging those eligible to enroll. The campaign is targeted at the elderly, working poor, the unemployed and Hispanics.
The department is spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on paid spots, and free public service announcements are also airing. The campaign can be heard in California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and the New York metro area.
Well, with that kind of messaging, small wonder consumers think the economy is getting worse. After all, it’s not as if hardly anyone is on food assistance these days, or that those numbers are growing smaller. Even without advertising, enrollment in the food-stamp program has exploded and continues to rise, Veronique de Rugy explains at Mercatus Center:
While the weak economy has played a role in the increase of food-stamp spending, this factor only tells part of the story. Food-stamp enrollment increased, and spending doubled, as unemployment and the poverty level dropped modestly between 2007 and 2011.
In the end, nothing changes the program participation and its costs more permanently than changes to food-stamp legislation. Both the Bush and Obama administrations expanded eligibility through the 2002 and 2008 farm bills and the 2009 stimulus bill. As the data show, spending after changes in eligibility grew by $169 billion between 2002 and 2007 and by $235 billion between 2008 and 2011.
De Rugy includes this helpful chart:
The last eligibility changes came in 2009, with the stimulus bill that was supposed to keep unemployment below 8%. One need only look at the final two years of this chart to gauge its success. Assistance continues to increase throughout this “recovery,” as Obamanomics produces a jobless stagnation rather than economic growth. Consumer confidence measure simply reflect the reality of American life in the third “Recovery Summer.”