Feb 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The party that's out of power never believes the economy is strong

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin holding a thumbs down on the one hundred dollar bill

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America's economy is booming, but many of us seem to think we're just a hopscotch away from recession. The disconnect may be systemic.

The big picture: This is the byproduct of a politics in which the economy is reflexively disparaged by those out of power.

By the numbers: Only 33% of Americans are very or somewhat satisfied with the state of the economy, according to Gallup — despite consistently strong GDP figures and the most robust job market in memory.

  • Republicans think the economy is getting worse while Democrats think it's getting better. Because the economy itself isn't really what matters; who's in charge of the economy is what matters.

How it works: Republicans and conservative media regularly shout that strong monthly job reports are weak, and that inflation is the only economic measure that really matters.

  • Democrats and left-wing media were similarly dismissive of strong economic data in the pre-pandemic years under President Trump, often emphasizing inequality over broad-based gains.
  • Both sides cherry-pick stock market gains or losses, even though stock market health doesn't necessarily track economic health.
  • Those in the political middle just keep hearing how terrible things must be, particularly as Democrats imply that the country's economic fate is tied to the stalled Build Back Better bill.

The bottom line: Economic sentiment is the collateral damage of partisan rancor.

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