The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Charlie Rangel Is Big, But He’s Not Bigger Than Our Economic Woes


I think in a normal year, the ethical troubles of Charlie Rangel — coupled with the reports of the Sestak and Romanoff job offers and the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and other lingering scandals — could be a potent political message, on par with Democrats’ 2006 “culture of corruption.”

But this isn’t a normal year, and I figure that while voters will not approve of Rangel and the rest, the impact on most races outside the political figures caught directly in scandals will be minimal. The economy and jobs loom too largely in the public’s mind; they’re worried about how they’re going to pay the rent or mortgage and whether their job will be around next year. They may not like Charlie Rangel ignoring the rules everyone else has to follow, but his misdeeds will seem far away compared to those pressing worries, other than the fact that it’s further evidence that members of Congress are more interested in helping themselves than helping a troubled country.

What’s rather fascinating about 2006 in retrospect was how the Democrats persuaded the country that a dramatic change was necessary, even as U.S. economy performed pretty well:

The U.S. economy turned in a surprisingly strong performance last year, new data show, growing 3.4 percent despite higher interest rates, high oil prices and the sharpest housing downturn in 15 years.

The report from the Commerce Department, showing that economic growth picked up in 2006 from the 3.2 percent growth of 2005, dispelled any lingering doubts about the momentum of the economy going into this year. Many economists predict growth will slow this year, but gone are the recession worries of last summer.

“Nothing, other than an external shock, will derail the economy this year,” said Eugenio J. Alem?n, senior economist at Wells Fargo. “The economy’s in good shape.”

Unemployment and inflation fell last year while wages and salaries rose at their quickest pace in five years, according to a series of recent government reports. 

The unemployment rate in 2006? Between 4.9 percent and 4.5 percent. That sounds like paradise right now.

Yet 50 percent described the economy as “not good” or “poor,” and those folks voted, 77 percent to 21 percent, in favor of Democrats in House races. Another 49 percent described the economy as “good” or “excellent,” and those folks voted 70 percent to 28 percent in favor of Republicans in House races.

After the 2006 election, Pelosi pledged, “we pledge to work for an economy that enables all Americans to participate in the economic success of our country.”

Tags: Charlie Rangel , Nancy Pelosi


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