As Sen. Harry Reid declares that private-sector job growth is doing “just fine,” the AP poll finds that the percentage of Americans who describe the economy as “very poor” has reached a new high.
A sizable majority — more than 7 in 10 — believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and, in a new high, 43 percent describe the nation’s economy as “very poor,” according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Among those surveyed, less than 40 percent say Obama’s proposed remedies for high unemployment would increase jobs significantly.
The pessimism is not a good sign for the nation’s recovery hopes and presents a more urgent challenge for Obama as he mounts his re-election bid.
About 4 in 10 think unemployment will rise in the coming year; just 23 percent expect it to decrease. And few expect the government to be able to help. Only 41 percent say the government can do much to create jobs, and less than 40 percent say the main elements of Obama’s jobs proposal would increase employment significantly.
What’s more, expectations for the coming year have not improved, with 41 percent believing the economy will remain the same, 27 percent saying it will get worse and 30 percent saying it will improve.
Until now, much of the analysis of the political impact of the Occupy Wall Street protests has focused on whether they can get Americans to blame Wall Street instead of the administration for the state of the economy, or whether the Democrats will marginalize themselves by wholeheartedly embracing a bunch of loons who poop on police cars and sneak into others’ tents to sniff their feet.
But maybe we’ve been missing another ripple effect from the protests, and more broadly, the “We Are the 99 Percent” argument showcasing tales of economic woe: In this environment, it makes it all but impossible for Obama or any other Democrat to argue that the economy is in recovery and that better times are just over the horizon. Obama’s election was heavily driven by the sudden onset of economic hard times; now he cannot really argue that we have recovered (at least not in a way most Americans can feel) and he can’t argue that a real recovery is just around the corner.
President Obama already knows he’s almost certainly going to be in a tough spot on the “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” question. But even worse for him, he now can’t argue that his policies just need a bit more time, and that 2013 will see the significant recovery Americans have been waiting for. The one indisputable message of the OWS/We Are the 99 Percent crowd is that economic opportunities are few and far between and that the basic goals of modern American life — getting a good education, finding a job, providing for one’s family, buying a house, being able to afford insurance and take care of one’s health — seem increasingly difficult or even impossible. Even Americans who have education, jobs, houses, and health insurance see the daily coverage of the protests and are reminded of their own economic anxieties.
That’s about as far from a “stay the course” message as you can imagine, and toxic for any cry of “four more years.”