By Daniel L. Gardner
“It’s the economy, stupid!” James Carville, a leading strategist for Bill Clinton during his first run for president in 1992, reminded the candidate and all around him to stay on message. The recession of the early 1990s (July 1990-March 1991) was one factor driving the electorate which are normally driven by the economy. Clinton made a better case for improving the economy and won the election.
Recessions are normally followed by good economic times…normally. Under President Clinton the economy boomed during the 1990s. A lot of factors played roles in this boom including Clinton’s working with Republicans in Congress to pass economy-friendly legislation that reduced the number of people on welfare rolls. Also, DOT.COM businesses boomed — and later busted — and stocks as well as incomes boomed in harmony.
The aforementioned DOT.COM bust exacerbated later on by 911 brought the next recession (March-November 2001) which was very brief by comparison.
The so-called Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009) crashed under the weight of the housing bust, banking busts, and automobile manufacturing busts. The “recovery” has not resembled any other recovery in American history. The economic recovery since June 2009 has been rather flat.
Seven years after recovering from the Great Recession, nonfarm payrolls grew by only 38,000 jobs in May, the fewest jobs since September 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a record 94,708,000 Americans were out of work last month, and the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) dropped to 62.6 percent. For comparison’s sake, the LFPR was 65.7 percent in January 2009.
The “real” unemployment number as defined by the BLS: “U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.” In May U-6 was 9.7 percent, and has been hovering around 10 percent for the past few years. None of this is news to those who have been looking for good, full time jobs the past 7 years.
According to the American Census Survey, Historical Real Median Household Income has dropped from $57,211 in 2008 to $53,657 in 2014. As our incomes shrink, our debt soars. National debt is nearly $19.3 trillion (add eleven “0” here); that’s nearly $60,000 every citizen owes, or more pertinently, more than $160,000 every American taxpayer owes because only about half of us pay any federal income tax. For what it’s worth, our total national debt was just over $10 trillion in January 2009.
To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s still the economy, stupid!” Oh, I know, immigration, terrorism, 2nd Amendment, and Supreme Court appointments are weightier issues this election year. But, in the end voters want to know how Washington can improve their economic situations. Here’s a clue: for the past 7 years “the government” has done everything it can to improve the economy, socialist-style. How’s that working for you?
Hillary promises to do more of the same, only better. Trump promises to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t work and “make America great again!” At least, that’s as much as I can gather from their stump speeches…in between insults about each other.
Somehow, I get the feeling this presidential election is more about redefining political parties than reining in runaway royal political corruption and debt.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. Contact him at [email protected], or interact with him on the Clarion-Ledger web site www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/.