The White House regularly threatens to “pivot” to the economy when polls go sour on them, or when it becomes necessary to distract the media — say, when a scandal erupts, or the central project of the administration turns out to be a complete fiasco. Barack Obama’s team has insisted that the topic for 2014 will be “income inequality,” while the rest of us think it’s going to be “oh my goodness, ObamaCare has sucked my checkbook dry,” especially for the middle class. Hey, either way, it’s all about the economy, right?
If Obama plans to complain about the economy and inequality in his 2014 State of the Union address, he’ll at least have plenty of company. According to the latest CNN poll, almost seven out of every ten Americans thinks the economy is in poor shape — five years after Obama took office, and 54 months after the recovery began:
A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.
Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.
And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.
CNN’s Gregory Wallace expresses a little surprise over its findings. Both the NASDAQ and the NYSE have surged, he writes, with the former up 40% since January. Housing and auto sales have picked up, although we’ve heard that off and on for the last three-plus years, too. Housing actually just took a slight turn downward on the heels of a very good year, although that may have more to do with a lack of inventory and tight lending thanks to new regulations in the mortgage market.
It’s not just a feeling, either. Americans are putting their money where their pessimism is:
Over half of Americans are cutting back on spending on clothing and appliances, emphasizing the public’s uncertainty in the economy. Additionally, 36 percent are even cutting back on food and medicine, up from 31 percent in 2008.
Wallace notes at CNN that this is lowest number on those measures since the economy was in free-fall. That’s not an issue of inequality; it’s a measure of how poorly the Obama administration’s policies have worked in the so-called recovery.
Under these circumstances, especially for a President who’s been in office for five years, one might expect a SOTU that tries up-selling the economy, rather than slamming it as unfair. After all, who’s been in charge for the last five years? Whose party had full control of Washington when the recovery started? Talking about inequality now would be a bit like opposing the PATRIOT Act for Obama — it’s a little late for that kind of posturing. He may count on the fact that people still tend to blame George W. Bush more than him for the economic collapse, but that doesn’t mean that they think he’s much better on the economy. His last approval level on that issue came from last week’s Washington Post/ABC poll, which put Obama’s approval at 42/55 overall, 37/59 with independents, and only 44/52 among women.
Besides, let’s not forget that ObamaCare was this administration’s big project to eliminate inequality in access to health-insurance coverage. How’s that working out for Americans? Anyone really excited to see Team Obama apply all of their demonstrated skills from the ObamaCare fiasco and apply them across the entire economy? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?