Back in 1992, political consultant James Carville coined the phrase “the economy, stupid” as one of the three top campaign messages for the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. While it was initially designed for only the Clinton staff, it eventually became the overall message of the campaign and the main rationale why the incumbent President George H. W. Bush should be defeated. Of course, it worked and Bill Clinton was elected President over an incumbent who enjoyed a 90% approval rating the year before the election.
Twenty-four years later, we are on the threshold of another presidential election in which voters are concerned about the economy. In the last two presidential debates, there will be liberal moderators and an audience surely stacked with Democrat operatives. Regardless of the actual biased questions, GOP nominee Donald Trump should continually steer the conversation back to the economy, his strongest issue and the most important concern for American voters.
Our economic problems were highlighted in the September labor report which showed only 156,000 new jobs were created. This level of job creation was below expectations and led to an increase in the unemployment rate to 5%, in reality, a fictitious rate that does not account for the Americans who are working several part time jobs and those workers who can’t find employment that matches their skill set. The broader unemployment rate of 9.7% is a more accurate reflection of a country which also has 94.2 million Americans who are outside of the labor force.
Other economic factors are a concern as consumer spending was flat last month and businesses delayed investments in new equipment and machinery. In this uncertain economic environment, it is still believed that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December after keeping them artificially low for nine years.
This false economy of low rates and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies have kept Wall Street happy, but has done very little for Main Street. The United States is a country with stagnant wages and a dearth of quality high paying jobs that allow Americans to support their families. It is a major reason why only 62.9% of Americans own homes, a 51 year low. The home ownership rate has been plunging ever since Barack Obama became President. Since the financial crisis of 2008, credit is much harder to obtain and housing prices are increasing much faster than incomes. Even low mortgage rates have not succeeded in turning around the downward trend in home ownership. Buying a home used to be a major part of achieving the American dream, but, today, it is an unattainable fantasy for millions of people struggling in this economy.
To deal with the nation’s economy, Hillary Clinton vows to continue the policies of Barack Obama. In fact, she is pledging to be even more progressive than Obama. She promises to raise more taxes and expand government even more, with free college tuition and expanded Obamacare. In contrast, Trump promises to cut taxes, restructure “bad” trade deals, end Obamacare, and expand domestic oil exploration. Unlike Clinton, Trump vows to protect coal industry jobs, and fight foreign competitors to return more manufacturing jobs to the country.
Even the most optimistic analysts agree this is a lackluster economy. For example, the last report on economic growth indicated the nation’s economy grew at an anemic rate of only 1.2% in the second quarter of 2016. This was approximately half the level of growth expected by most economists. The report is especially troubling since the economy only grew by .8% in the first quarter and .9% in the last quarter of 2015. An economy in full recovery should be growing at 3% or more, so the American economy is sputtering at best with our current recovery being the nation’s weakest since 1949.
While some Americans are finding jobs, many others are getting left behind in the Obama economy. Today, there are approximately 47 million Americans in poverty, including an astounding 45 million people receiving food stamps.
With such economic woes, will Americans want to stay the course and elect Hillary Clinton or vote for change and support Donald Trump? In a recent Rasmussen poll, 64% of Americans believe the nation is on the “wrong track,” but Hillary Clinton still maintains a 4% lead over Donald Trump, according to the Real Clear Politics national poll average. It is the controversies, comments and style of Donald Trump that has overshadowed real concerns about the economy and Hillary Clinton’s various scandals.
To redirect Americans to the important issues, it is essential that Trump use the opportunity of the last two debates to highlight the real plight of average Americans, not the Wall Street tycoons who contribute to Hillary’s campaign.
If voters begin to appreciate the actual state of the economy today, they may reject Hillary Clinton and a continuation of the Obama policies and vote for Trump. However, a majority of voters will only support him if they feel comfortable about his temperament, judgment, leadership abilities and policies.
In the final two debates, he has a superb opportunity to make his case as a change agent, a job creator and an advocate of economic policies that will restore the American dream. He must forgo the trivia and avoid the traps set by Hillary and the moderators and focus on the essentials, the issues like the economy that really matter to the American people.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].