I’m having some connectivity problems today, so this post will be quick. I plan to be back at full speed tomorrow.
As any of you who are trying to sell a house right now or who have watched the stock market do loop-de-loops lately know, the economy appears unstable. And, of course, in this election year, that has consequences for the candidates.
There’s no death of opinions about what those consequences will be, or where the economy is really heading, although there’s also no consensus. This is hardly unusual in economic matters.
One thing that’s clear is that things have changed lately. This piece by Michael Barone makes the excellent point that ideas about the economy used to be shaped by a populace the bulk of whom had lived through the Great Depression, but are now shaped by a very different group.
If you want to feel old, just take a look at this:
The median-age voter in 2008 was born around 1963. This voter never waited behind the steering wheel in gas lines and never struggled to pay bills during the stagflation of the 1970s. This voter has lived all of his or her adult life in an economy that has had low-inflation growth about 95 percent of the time. For these voters, such prosperity may largely be taken for granted. And their assessments of the economy are likely to be very different from those of voters who had a personal memory of the 1930s.
Or the 60s and 70s, for that matter.
Barone also points out that opinions on the economy now separate along more strictly partisan lines. I’m not so sure this wasn’t always true, but at any rate it certainly goes along with the increasingly bitterly divided partisanship of our times.
I would add that this partisanship along economic lines is aided and abetted by the fact that economics is a somewhat specialized—some would say hazy—field, once that has some elements of science and some of Tarot card reading. It is also a discipline in which many of us are less than highly versed (I count myself among them; economics has never been my strong suit).
One thing is certain: relative ignorance about economics and the future allows candidates, handlers, and political prognosticators to fill in the blanks. “It’s the economy, stupid” takes on a new meaning. In the sense of knowing the economic future, we are all somewhat stupid.