Charlie Harper: It’s Not The Economy, Stupid.

Charlie Harper

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

Presidential Politics has, more or less, come down to a referendum on how Americans collectively feel about the current and future state of their wallet.  The 1970’s brought us the misery index, where the rate of inflation plus the rate of unemployment were added together for a score.  The Reagan recovery brought a 49 state landslide in the 80’s, and the continued economic expansion propelled Reagan’s Vice President into office in 1988. 

George H.W. Bush’s administration was marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then the first Gulf War. The anxiety of war buildup combined with a spike in oil prices caused consumers to close their pocketbooks, sending the U.S. into a brief mild recession. 

Bush saw his approval rating plummet from 89%, and a largely unknown Governor from Arkansas took advantage of the opportunity.  Bill Clinton’s political advisor George Carville coined the simple yet direct theme of their insurgent campaign:  It’s the economy, stupid. 

It didn’t matter that the recession was over and the economy was growing again before voters headed to the polls.  The vast majority of media coverage of the race adopted the narrative of a broken economic system, and piled on with profiles painting Bush as aloof and out of touch with everyday American’s struggles. 

If you’ve watched or read coverage of the state of the economy from major news outlets not owned by Rupert Murdoch, you’ve likely already seen the current hand wringing.  The official talking point question for about a month has become “Why isn’t Joe Biden getting credit for the strong American economy?” 

What we instead have to understand that the question of the day is one of fairness, and my friends in journalism need to take a long look in the mirror to understand how we got here.  Media outlets who prefer anecdote over data to prop up narratives for specific groups have long posited “fairness” as the barometer to measure if our economic policies meet the needs of a majority of Americans.

President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech put a fine point on the shift.  It was no longer about Reagan’s effort to build a bigger economic pie.  It was about redistributing what we currently have around the table. 

Today, the self-made billionaire isn’t the poster child for the American dream. They are a target for those who believe it’s not fair for someone to have some when others have little or nothing.  We put a friendly face on these Marxists beliefs by calling it Democratic Socialism and mock anyone who protests the change in a fundamental principle of how our system of government and economics is supposed to work. 

Economic literacy is at all-time lows, and a large portion of the voter base is, rightly or wrongly, using the nebulous concept of “fairness” as their litmus test for major policy decisions.  After all, “we’re the richest nation on earth”.  Why doesn’t everyone have everything they need?

The shift of government generosity has been notice by many others outside of our country.  As he telegraphed he would do when campaigning, President Biden relaxed or rescinded hundreds of policies and executive orders on immigration.  Hundreds of thousands of “migrants” are entering the country each year. Sanctuary Cities got what they asked for, and don’t care much for it. 

Americans who have long grown tired of TSA hassles have watched this new special class be allowed to traverse airports without ID.  New York City is now offering free housing and $1,000 per month in pre-paid debit cards to our new guests.  Parents of NYC school children have had their kids be turned away from classrooms as schools are converted to shelters. 

A tipping point of no return has occurred when four “migrants” beat up a New York policeman on video.  They were released on bail, gave cameras and ostensibly every one of us the bird, then were quickly shipped out of the city to another U.S. location.  District Attorney Alvin Bragg, forever linked with Presidential politics as the first to indict former President Donald Trump, runs from cameras when asked why he allowed those who would beat up one of his police officers go free. 

American’s don’t need talking head pundits to tell us whether all of this is fair or not.  Lecturing Americans that we just don’t appreciate how good we have it is smug and out of touch.  If the fundamental question is fairness, the President’s current poll numbers are quite easy to understand.