Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poll numbers

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60% of Americans do not approve of the job President Obama has done in managing the economy. My question is, "Who the hell are those people in the other 40%?"

The right insists that Obama can't do anything right, and the left is not far behind in its disapproval. Long-term readers of this blog may remember that Obama lost my support when he surrounded himself with the Robert Rubin gang before he was elected.

Granted, the president doesn't actually manage the economy — the Fed does the monetary policy and the Congress does the fiscal policy. On the other hand, one ought to be able to look to the president for some leadership. Leadership has been notably absent as Obama has consistently crumbled under the weight of Republican demands even before sitting down to play at negotiation.

Yes, I said play. If any authentic negotiation has taken place, I haven't noticed it. Right now, as the Republicans hold hostage the economic health of the entire world by refusing to increase the debt ceiling, the only real discussion seems to be about just how austere the austerity must be. Nobody at all is talking about the need for further stimulus.

For most Americans, though, Obama's negatives are based not on any particular policies. Their poor opinions are based on looking around — at the unemployed and underemployed, at the way wages have lagged behind the price of staples like food and energy, and (despite a good deal of shouting about the need to shrink government) reductions in government services that have an adverse impact on quality of life.

So, who are those people in the approving 40%?

Some have to be Obama loyalists who will support him no matter what he does — there's a lot of cognitive dissonance theory at work among those who drank the Kool-Aid in 2008. Then, I guess, there are the respondents who are doing reasonably well at the moment and don't much care what's happening to others. Finally, I suspect, there are those Democrats who tell the pollsters they approve in the hope that the poll results won't look too bad.

The same poll had Mitt Romney ahead of Obama among registered voters, but nobody liked him very much either, and the other Republican hopefuls fared considerably worse. It's not looking like employment is going to pick up much, if at all, by next year; and if we have to wait for the housing market to recover for the economy to recover, the next presidential term will be just as much a downer as the current one.

Okay, I seem to recall swearing off predictions a while ago. Let's just say that, like a lot of others, I'm not feeling optimistic.

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