Jewish World Review May 9, 2003 / 7 Iyar, 5763
Dems overplay the economy card
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Have you heard the news? More jobs have been lost during the first two years of President Bush's administration than under any President since Herbert Hoover. Haven't heard it? You will. It's one of the Democratic Party's new talking points.
There's an esoteric, History Channel quality to the Bush-Hoover comparison. Hoover left the White House 70 years ago. His name evokes little emotion, or even recognition, among voters under 80. Average Americans, if they've heard of Hoover at all, probably think he invented the vacuum cleaner.
In fact, Hoover was the unlucky and inept fellow who presided over the first years of the Great Depression. Today's Democrats are trying hard to convince the public that an analogous economic crisis is upon us. So far, it's not working.
This week, the Gallup Organization published the results of an economic public opinion poll it conducted in late April. The survey's main finding is that Americans aren't forming bread lines quite yet.
Gallup did find that 56% of the public thinks the economy is in recession - high, but hardly Hooverian. More to the point, it is far better than Bush's father fared on the same question after the first Gulf War. Then, 88% of Americans told Gallup they thought the nation was in a recession.
That disparity is crucial. Today's Democrats are inspired by the fact that Bush I lost his wartime popularity - and the 1992 election - because voters blamed him for hard economic times.
In 1991, not only did almost nine in 10 Americans say there was a recession, but almost 60% called it "serious" or "moderate" (as opposed to "mild," "no recession" or "no opinion"). Today, only 35% regard the country as in a serious or moderately serious recession.
Even more striking, 57% of Americans, asked about the business conditions in their communities, called them "good" or "very good." Obviously, many people who say there's a recession aren't experiencing it personally. Contrast this with 1991, when only 44% of Americans described the economic conditions in their communities in positive terms. This disparity is crucial, because people who pick candidates for financial reasons tend to vote their own pocketbooks, not those of their neighbors.
In 1991, with his overall job approval at 88%, President George Bush got favorable ratings for economic stewardship from just 37%. This Bush has a far lower (if still very high) overall rating of 70%. But 49% of the public approves of his economic job performance.
In Saturday's Democratic debate, Sen. John Edwards asked the Ronald Reagan question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Perhaps not, but the answer is not quite the rhetorical slam dunk the North Carolina senator and his fellow Democrats imagine. Sixty percent of the public told Gallup that they are as well off, or better off, than they were a year ago. Even more telling, almost two-thirds expect to be better off financially a year from now than they are today. Everyone knows that polls are a snapshot. Eighteen months before the next election, surveys reliably predict nothing. On the other hand, the precedent of 1992, on which the Democrats are basing so much hope, was also a snapshot - and, like the employment figures of the Hoover administration, it is yellowing into irrelevance.
If the Democrats want to exploit what they see as Bush's economic
vulnerabilities, they will have to bring their talking points into the 21st
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