One of the largest political anomalies of our moment is that our economy is, by the standard general measures, doing okay or maybe slightly better than okay given the impact of our misbegotten COVID policies that killed so many small businesses. But a majority of Americans think it isn’t.
Employment and economic output are finally back to the favorable levels reached before COVID, and while inflation is still too high and economic growth too sluggish, both are moving in a positive direction. Yet one recent poll shows 58 percent of the public think the economy is getting worse (this figure includes 44 percent of Democrats), and the disapproval rating of President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy is 66 percent—worse than Biden’s overall disapproval rating of 60 percent.
What explains this strange circumstance?
One reason might be that liberals have been too successful in running down our economy on the grounds of “inequality,” and they aren’t wholly wrong about this: income gains—except, significantly, for a period under Trump—have accrued largely to upper income groups, while working class wages have been flat. Liberals who now want everyone to cheerlead how great Joe Biden has been for the economy never stop to think about how maybe they’ve gotten their message across too well.
But it is equally likely that many Americans perceive that the economy is rigged in favor of special clients of the Democratic Party, with very little benefit reaching ordinary working people. Take in this item from the Wall Street Journal today:
Of all the beneficiaries of the U.S.’s green-energy push, few have hit the jackpot like First Solar. The Arizona-based solar-panel manufacturer expects to receive as much as $710 million this year—nearly 90% of forecast operating profit—from subsidies the U.S. government rolled out a year ago to encourage domestic renewables production. One analyst estimates the incentives could be worth more than $10 billion for the company over the next decade. . .
The company’s shares have more than doubled to $208.40 in Friday trade since the beginning of 2022, despite a string of earnings disappointments during that period.
There you have it. If you are favored “green” energy company, the Biden regime will guarantee your profits lavishly. If you are a unionized pipeline worker, like those who were at work on the Keystone Pipeline when Biden took office, tough luck. (Query: Biden’s people said that the Keystone’s laid-off workers could go to work for the solar power industry. I wonder how many former pipeline workers First Solar has employed? I’ll bet the answer is Zero.)
Beyond this accurate perception, a majority of Americans also likely sense that despite some positive general economic news, our economy is anemic, operating well below its full potential. One upon a time, even Democrats (like JFK) understood the importance of “getting the country moving again.” Now they are in thrall to a dirigiste economic ideology that emphasizes green energy and not much else, and laughingly calling it “inflation reduction.”
As James Carville famously put it, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Up to now both Trump and Gov. DeSantis have been emphasizing culture war issues and ignoring the economy. Until yesterday, that is.
Gov. DeSantis delivered a major speech on his economic policy, and I recommend checking it out. If you read closely, you will make out some distant echoes of Reagan’s approach to the economy. DeSantis invokes the image of the “malaise” afflicting our economy, and said his view is that “we win, they lose”—an homage to Reagan’s summary view about how the Cold War should end. He has two principal targets in mind: China, for its predatory and piratical economic practices, and our insider Wall Street elites (along with big tech) who rig the economy in their favor. A nice mix of nationalism (rightly understood) and populism here.
He’s not afraid to call out his own party for lassitude about the subject: “Entrenched Washington politicians in both parties refuse to change course. Why would they? For those connected to the DC ruling class, life has never been better. Five of the eight wealthiest counties in the US are suburbs of Washington, DC. . . . The elites that have orchestrated policies leading to our current state of malaise have failed.”
For nearly 50 years now, the clearest path to victory in a presidential contest, for both parties, has been to run against Washington. This ought to tell us something by now, but it never seems to get through to people in Washington.
There’s a lot of good stuff in his “Declaration of Economic Independence.” Read the whole thing, or watch the video.