They Want to Talk About The ECONOMY?! Are you kidding me?
President Bush, who gets higher marks for handling the economy than running the Iraq war, is spending two days this week trying to convince voters Republicans are the best stewards of matters affecting the wallet...hopes for strong third-quarter earnings lifted the Dow Jones industrial average past 12,000 for the first time on Wednesday. The Conference Board's index of U.S. leading economic indicators rose last month, and the government reported last week that consumer prices fell in September by the largest amount in 10 months.The reason they are doing this, of course, is that the American public now feels better about the economy than it has in a long while, and certainly better than it does about Iraq. And yet, from where I stand, there are few better ways to commit political suicide than for a Republican to talk about the Economy right now. Either the GOP is desperate, or it believes its own press clippings. Either way, the result is good news for Democrats. Allow me to explain why:
Certainly, there are numbers for the GOP to tout. Some of them are in the CNN article:
Overall, the economy grew at a 2.6 percent pace from April through June, compared with a 5.6 percent pace over the first three months of the year, which was the strongest spurt in 2½ years. Still, voters remain uneasy even though gasoline prices have started dropping, the stock market is hitting record highs, and interest rates on credit cards and adjustable mortgages are leveling off.
And, according to a Post-ABC poll taken around October 10th, the poll numbers are even better:
With the decline in gasoline prices, Americans are somewhat more positive about the economy, with 47 percent describing it as good or excellent -- the highest since July 2001 -- and 53 percent saying it is not so good or poor. Forty-one percent approve of how Bush has handled economic issues, about the same percentage as in August.
That--despite the fact that the ABC poll puts support for Bush's handling the economy at a tepid 41%--is ostensibly good news for the GOP.
Except that it's not. Not at all. And I refuse to believe that Bush's advisers and the Republicans would openly walk into this electoral trap.
And a trap it is, for two VERY important reasons:
1. The comparatively positive economic outlook of the electorate has very little to do with the Dow, or with unemployment numbers, with interest rates, or with the GDP. It has to do with GAS PRICES--and every poll says so.
So what, you say? I'll tell you. There's one very important factor that you have to consider when talking about gas price-induced positive economic outlook: Valid or or not, more people believe that Bush and oil companies are manipulating gas prices than think he's doing a good job with the economy. From USAToday:
According to a new Gallup poll, 42% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." Fifty-three percent of those surveyed did not believe the conspiracy theory; 5% said they had no opinion.
Not surprising, almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.
The corollary to that is that 1/3 of those who suspect this are Independents or even Republicans.
So let's get this straight: Americans are feeling better about the economy because gas prices are lower right now--but they also think the Republicans are so corrupt that they're trying to manipulate the economy to make them feel good before the election. And either way, they trust Democrats more than Republicans on the economy in every poll--and have all year.
This is not an issue I would feel on VERY shaky ground talking about if I were a GOP Strategist. Which I'm not, thank goodness.
2. It shows that the GOP is utterly out-of-touch.
You see, the idiots over at RedState and Free Republic have been urging Bush to run on his economic record for several months now. Their argument, to date, can be partially seen on this RedState post:
ON THE ECONOMY:
Unemployment rate of approximately of 4.6%
·30 year average mortgage rates of approximately 6.37%
·6.6 million jobs created since august 2003
·1.7 million jobs created in the last 12 months
·37 months of job growth
·Stock Market hovering around 12,000
Never mind, of course, that Clinton created 22.5 million jobs, or that Clinton's jobs were created in the private sector, while a far greater number of Bush's jobs have been in the government sector. Don't get me started. If you want the full rundown, just read any given diary by bonddad. As bonddad says:
So - we've lost high-paying jobs. Wages have barely risen for the duration of this expansion - even after the economy hit full employment in December 2005. Health care costs have skyrocketed, which is one of the reasons people aren't savings anymore. And to maintain their lifestyle, people are taking out massive amounts of loans, the payments of which are taking a historically large percentage of income.
That's the Bush economy in action.
And that's God's honest truth.
Now, see, I assumed that Karl Rove knew better than this. I assumed that the puppeteers of GOP policy and political witchcraft would stay away from talking about these issues too much, for fear of severly angering what little electorate they have left in the polls. Apparently, I was wrong.
Republicans, you see, believe that only two things really matter to the economy:
A) The stock market and the state of their dividends (and, to a lesser degree, the state of housing). This is how they make their money. If stocks are doing well, they are doing well, and they feel good about the economy. Even though most of the rest of the country participates barely or not at all in this speculative economy, it still matters a great deal to the country-club set.
B) Employment numbers. In the worldview of the Republican strategist, the "rest of us" live in a wage-slave world that is starkly defined in the following way: "Either you have a job or you don't."
Factors like the quality of that job; or how many hours you have to work to get the same amount of pay for that job; or how much tuition or healthcare or housing any given dollar earned from that job will buy; all these things are irrelevant to their rentier-economy mindset.
Thus, if employment numbers look good on paper, they figure that the average American must be doing well financially.
And nothing, as we all know, could be further from the truth--because as we all know, the average American is really living and dying by his/her WAGES: Wages versus Inflation, Wages versus Productivity, and Wages versus Cost of Living. Which are horrible right now--by design.
And there you have it. Again, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and friends are either terribly desperate, or they've been reading their own press clippings so long that they've lost all touch with reality on the ground.
And what's the upshot? The upshot is that the only thing that Bush and pals are going to accomplish by talking about the economy is to reinforce to the American voter that Bush is manipulating their votes and wallets, and more importantly that Republicans just don't get it. That they have no clue what's actually happening on the ground in America any more than they understand what's happening on the ground in Iraq.
But you know what I say? Go for it, Karl! Go for it, George!! Democrats could use the votes...