It’s usually dangerous when an incumbent lawmaker sees the world differently than his constituents, but I figure the most damaging manifestation of this occurs when a politician insists that his constituents are doing fine and the constituents believe they face big problems. An incumbent can’t solve a problem that he can’t see or won’t acknowledge.
Despite a bit of GDP growth, the high unemployment rate, shrunken 401(k)s and overall uncertainty mean most Americans feel like we’re still going through a recession. It’s Year Three of the Great Recession, and most economists don’t sound all that optimistic about the year to come. I suspect you would have to see the national unemployment rate below 7 percent before most Americans perceive the country to be seriously recovering.
There’s a great example of this in Maryland, which has a competitive governor’s race between incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Bob Ehrlich:
A senior member of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration ordered a gloomy economic report removed from a state Web site last month that ran counter to a more positive spin O’Malley’s office had approved about slowing job growth in the state, e-mails show.
The internal report characterized Maryland’s economy as having “stalled.” It was mistakenly posted by a staffer on Aug. 20 and removed hours later as alarm bells rang in two state agencies and in the governor’s office, the documents show.
The negative report ”was diametrically opposed to the discussed and eventually-approved messaging” that goes through a process of being signed off by the department and the governor’s office, one stafferwrote in an e-mail explaining the “situation” to a director in his department. “The theme of the discussion was quite clear that we would emphasize private sector job growth as progressing . . . at no time did we remotely discuss messaging that the economic recovery had stalled.”
Hey, take down that report! Maybe Maryland voters won’t notice the economy!