Barone: Why Voters Think the Economy Is in Trouble
While the media have been talking down the economy for the past four years on gas prices, recession, housing and more, there may be another reason so many voters perceive the economy to be in poor shape.
According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, voters think the economy is a more important issue than the Iraq war now. The poll also revealed 57 percent of voters think the
‚ÄúThe median age voter in this election will have been born about 1966. ‚ÄúThey never waited behind a steering wheel in a half-hour gas line,‚ÄĚ explained Michael Barone, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and the principal co-author of ‚ÄúThe Almanac of American Politics.‚ÄĚ Barone‚Äôs comments came while he was promoting his new book in
Barone continued, ‚ÄúThey never tried to pay weekly bills with getting more deducted from their paycheck by bracket [creep] and seeing their bills climb upward because of inflation. They weren‚Äôt paying weekly bills until the 1980s. And, they‚Äôve experienced this low inflation, economic growth 95 percent of the time in their adult lives.‚ÄĚ (Click here for audio.)
‚Äú[T]his is a new electorate,‚ÄĚ Barone said. ‚ÄúThe median voter in 2006 will have been born on or about the year 1966. They don‚Äôt remember the 70s and I think that‚Äôs important on economic issues.‚ÄĚ
In the 70s, Barone explained, many ‚Äúgovernment solutions‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúregulations‚ÄĚ about the economy were discredited by the gas lines, stagflation and low economic growth.
As history points out, those liberal economic policies failed according to Barone.
‚ÄúGoing into the 1980 election, liberal economists, who in the mid-1960s when I took ‚ÄėEc I‚Äô at Harvard said, ‚ÄėHey we got the answer ‚Äď we can give you low inflation, economic growth forever ‚Äď just a couple of public policy levers, we know how to do it,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Barone said. ‚ÄúBy the late-1970s, they‚Äôre saying, ‚Äėyou people are childish for wanting low inflation, economic growth. Again, just keeping things humming along with high inflation and no growth is about the best you can expect, so become adult and think about it and so forth.‚ÄĚ
Voters who are too young to remember the 70s have only seen how great the economy can be, so they are more likely to think the economy is struggling now.
‚ÄúStarting in 1983, 25 years ago next month, we‚Äôve had 25 years where we‚Äôve had low inflation, economic growth 95 percent of the time,‚ÄĚ Barone said. ‚ÄúThe stuff those economists said could no longer happen has happened almost all the time and I think that has effected our political environment for a long time.‚ÄĚ
On December 12, CNN‚Äôs Ali Velshi told ‚ÄúAmerican Morning‚ÄĚ viewers he is not trying to ‚Äústart a recession or stop one,‚ÄĚ but ‚Äúto tell you what you guys are thinking about a recession [referring to the CNN poll results] and see where it goes.‚ÄĚ But according to Barone, the ‚Äúyou guys‚ÄĚ he is referring to have no idea what a troubled economy looks like.
How the public ‚Äúfeels‚ÄĚ about the economy and how politicians tell them the economy is, isn‚Äôt necessarily a true gauge of the economy.
‚ÄúVoters‚Äô view of the economy today, as I pointed out in the introduction, is not really a view of the economy,‚ÄĚ Barone added.
‚ÄúDemocrats now are talking quite differently,‚ÄĚ Barone said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre basically calling for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, which is in effect a tax increase. They‚Äôre calling for in varying amounts and in different ways government-directed health care proposals. And they‚Äôre talking to an electorate which I think is conceivably more ‚Äď could be more attracted to these things than the electorate in 1992.‚ÄĚ