With the economy booming and showing positive signs across the board, it’s something of a mystery why so many people continue to insist that everything is terrible and the world is about to end. That’s the issue being tackled by our friend Andrew Malcolm this week at his new home, Issues & Insights. (Be sure to check out the rest of the site as well. They have quite the stable of reporters and analysts.) The answer is probably to be found in perceptions rather than facts, as so often happens in politics these days.
After the weak growth of that endless Obama reign of error, along comes a New York billionaire businessman who leads a Republican Congress to pass historic tax cuts aimed at the middle class. Almost immediately, as Trump predicted, economic growth took off.
The ranks of employed Americans reached historically high levels while unemployment – even in historically high sectors like Hispanics and blacks — dropped to historic lows, 3.8% nationally. In a tightening labor market, wages grew for the first time this century.
And yet virtually every single major polling organization consistently finds more Americans disapprove of the tax cuts that benefitted them than approve. It’s 49 to 40 in Gallup, 49 to 36 in Pew, 43 to 34 in Monmouth.
Democrats won the tax-cut message battle saying it benefitted mainly the wealthy.
How did that happen? As Andrew points out, a casual study of what cable news and the major newspapers consider newsworthy probably has a lot to do with it. The President himself touts economic growth virtually every time there’s a microphone in front of his face or when he starts on a Twitter binge. But a 3.2 percent annualized first-quarter growth rate doesn’t seem to be “news” to most of the Fourth Estate, so you don’t have those numbers drilled into your head on a daily basis. Thus, when the pollsters come calling, people are saying that the tax cuts only benefited “the wealthy” in many cases.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the leader in the Democratic primary polling race, former VP Joe Biden, is out there repeating lies about the tax cuts. His recent attempt to undercut the economic effects of this policy was so bad that even the Washington Post fact checker had to award him four Pinocchios for it.
But on top of obvious media bias, I suspect Trump is battling something broader and more difficult to define. I’ve definitely sensed a growing tendency toward pessimism, cynicism or doom and gloom among political activists on both sides of the aisle these days. Jokes about how stupid or insane 2018 was were quickly replaced with snide comments about how “that’s so 2019.” I’ve been guilty of it myself.
Perhaps we’ve managed to condition ourselves to expect something awful to happen every day to the point that we’re unable to recognize the good news when it comes along. It’s as if we’re perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. By all metrics, we are living in what should be considered one of the more encouraging and hopeful periods the country has experienced in years. We should make an effort to focus on that for a while and just brighten up a little.