by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The most recent Economist/YouGov poll found that 23 percent of American adults feel the country is on the right track.
One way to look at that 23 percent is to recognize that it is the lowest positive response to that question in this poll in the past year.
But another way is to ask, Who are these people? And what’s got them so confident that the country is on the right track? Is it just a phenomenal capacity to not notice or ignore bad news?
Are they stockholders? Sure, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit some new highs last month, and U.S. gross domestic product enjoyed a good quarter after a sudden drop last quarter. But most of our recent economic good news comes with caveats, asterisks, and other qualifiers.
Sure, the work-force-participation rate ticked up a bit last month, but it’s been declining a long while and hit a 35-year low recently. The 6.2 percent unemployment rate is good by the standards of the Obama era, but it remains higher than it was for the entire George W. Bush administration. The real median household income is down about $5,000 since 2007. Median household net worth is still slogging along, hampered by anemic wage growth and an uneven recovery from the housing bubble.
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation.
Other polls suggest that economic pessimism is still pretty widespread: “A CNN/ORC International poll indicates that 58 percent of those surveyed rates the nation’s economic conditions as poor, with 41 percent saying they are good.”
And the problems before the country keep piling up like a three-car crash around a blind corner.