If it were still “the economy, stupid,” then Joe Biden’s Presidency would be in better shape.
Something else is at play.
Yes, inflation is souring Americans. But by many measures, the economy is booming. The economy is growing; the Gross Domestic Product is up 5.2% in the third quarter, even faster than previously estimated. If GDP is rising, the economy is considered to be in solid shape, and the nation is moving forward. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied this week to a new year-high.
Wages had been losing ground to inflation for two years, but since May, wages have returned to outpacing inflation. Unemployment is at an all-time low. The U.S. unemployment rate has been below 4% for 21 straight months —the longest stretch since the late 1960s.
Gas prices have steadily been going down for ten weeks, and you barely read about that anywhere. But you can bet if it were headed in the other direction, it’d be on a loop with videos of the pump prices.
The holiday season is looking promising for retailers. According to data from Adobe Analytics, lured by the deep discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, U.S. shoppers spent a whopping $38 billion over Thanksgiving weekend — a jump of 7.8% over last year, outstripping the predicted 5.4%.
But still, Biden is receiving no political dividends.
“That disconnect between a booming economy and how Americans feel about it appears to be widening at a critical time ahead of next year’s presidential election. It is also shaping up to be a key liability for the White House, even as its policies are bolstering job creation and business investments.”
In a variety of national battleground polls, President Biden trails former President Trump.
As Politico recently pointed out, among the latest surveys this month from 13 pollsters, Biden’s position is worse than their previous polls in all but two of them.
Might it be that perception has overtaken reality?
Consider the Big Mac. CNN’s Allison Morrow was among those who told the story of Topher Olive. A year ago, Olive went to a McDonald’s in Post Falls, Idaho, and ordered a limited edition “Smoky” Double Quarter Pounder BLT with fries and a Sprite. Total cost for this novelty item: $16.10. He posted the receipt on TikTok. It went viral and kept being recirculated on TikTok, Reddit, and YouTube hosts.
Then, a recent YouTube video incorrectly reported that it was a Big Mac Meal. And more than 1.7 million viewed that video containing false information. The narrative became that the cost of a fast-food meal was upwards of $16. Yes, the price of a Big Mac Meal on Biden’s watch has gone up – but not like that.
The viral story reached The White House Office of Digital Strategy, but as one source told the Washington Post:
“What are we supposed to do, tell the president or Chuck Schumer to send a tweet saying, ‘Hey, most Big Macs aren’t that expensive?’ It would look ridiculous.”
I felt obliged to do field research. My Big Mac meal in the Philly burbs cost me $10.09 before tax.
The White House has struggled to set the record straight. The perception is impacting the president’s base. Enter the New York Times with this headline: “Even Most Biden Voters Don’t See a Thriving Economy”
The Times noted that even.
“A majority of those who backed President Biden in 2020 say today’s economy is fair or poor, ordinarily a bad omen for incumbents seeking re-election.”
Part of the explanation might be due to the loss of COVID-related relief. While inflation has subsided, prices are still high — groceries, for example, are up 25% since the Pandemic. The resumption of evictions and student loan payments have led to less disposable income. And credit card debt is now at a record trillion dollars. And 57% of Americans say they don’t have a spare thousand dollars for an emergency.
The resulting national funk has had a broad impact. It’s not just that we think things are worse than the data suggests. We’re also no longer confident in the American dream – where the dream is defined as “getting ahead.” Or “doing better than your parents’ and grandparents’ generation.”
That’s the finding from a Wall Street Journal/N-O-R-C survey, which included two questions:
— if people work hard, are they likely to get ahead in America?
— and will your generation do better than the generation before you?
The results were shocking. In 2012. 53% of Americans said the American Dream still holds true. Just last year, when the Journal asked a similar question: whether Americans who work hard were likely to get ahead.
68% said yes.
In the current poll — that number is down to 36% In other words, it’s been cut nearly in half.
So, perception — or reality?
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.