This phrase was famously written on a white board in Clinton campaign headquarters by James Carville in 1992. Carville was a strategist in Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush.
Here is another take. “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment…than there was four years ago?” Ronald Reagan asked the voters this question during his televised debate against the incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
At the core of any presidential election is the economy.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
So let’s talk about the economy. Barack Obama inherited a terrible economy from George The Younger when he took office in January of 2009. That is certainly clear. Obama presided over a steady–but tepid–recovery for 8 years. It was the slowest recovery from a major recession since the Great Depression which started in 1929. When Donald Trump was elected, despite many and dire predictions to the contrary, the stock market immediately took off–not bothering to wait for Trump to take office. Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman issued dire economic warnings prior to the 2016 election, predicting economic disaster if Trump were to be elected. Krugman doubled down when Trump was elected president, warning readers of the New York Times to brace themselves for a “global recession.” Right after Trump was elected, the New York Times asked its opinion writers to weigh in on what the election meant.”If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.” Krugman predicted.
Since the day Trump was inaugurated, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone up about 9,500 points, or nearly 50%.
The Prediction: In November 2016, Krugman wrote that, “We are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight.”
The Reality: The overall economy under Trump rocketed upward, hitting growth numbers that many, including President Obama, said were impossible.
And, as is often the case, President Trump is his own worst enemy; in this case it is his tariffs. Many economists, including conservative economists, believe that the tariffs are hurting the economy, and hurting it in a significant way. And I agree with them.
But. But, Trump’s economy is strong enough to withstand the hurtful tariffs. Imagine what the economy would be like if Trump got out of his own way.
Let’s ask ourselves the, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” question. Well, are you? Republicans are telling you that you are, and they have plenty of statistics to cite to support their position. Unemployment is at record lows. And that is true despite many previously disheartened workers returning to the pool of workers; millions of reinvigorated workers have returned to the looking-for-a-job rolls, and if the economy was not strong enough to absorb them, unemployment stats would be going up. But they are not. And, finally, wages, adjusted for inflation, are going up.
Democrats will tell you the opposite, that the economy is not working for the 99%; only the 1%. The worker is getting the shaft, while the billionaires are raking it in. We hear, “We need an economy that works for everyone.”
Well, at least for now, forget both parties. What is going on with you?
Today’s Key Point: Make up your own mind. You know best how things are for you. Everything from your current job to job prospects to wages to your standard of living. Pay attention to your feelings of confidence, or lack thereof, in the economy to keep going in the right direction. That’s your assessment. Yours. Not someone else’s. Not a political party telling you how to feel about your finances. Hey, it is your finances and your vote, not theirs, right?
Is there more than the economy to think about? Of course: climate change issues, justice and fairness, and healthcare and education. To name a few. But doesn’t it all start with finances; if you are broke, nothing else can be much of a priority. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, became famous for his Hierarchy of Needs (below). At the bottom of the triangle, it shows that physiological needs, e.g., food, shelter and clothing, are first and foremost. And I agree.
I have major issues with the top two parts, but the point here is that finances, the economy, need to be right before anything else becomes a priority.
James Carville was right, it is about the economy. Yes, other things do matter, but don’t forget to vote your wallet. Not what someone else tells you to think about your wallet–your finances–but what you experience for yourself.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.