For every presidential administration, there is a fairly large opposition to the perceived policies of that administration, and the usual refrain of this opposition is “He’s ruining America!”

Go back to every previous administration in your lifetime, and it is always the same:  roughly one-third of the country will claim that:

“_______________ is inflicting damage on our economy and reputation that is ‘irreversible'”.

Since we tend to “live in the moment”, we really only pay attention to what is happening in our own households currently.  When we do look back to those “better times”, it is usually a myopic view based solely on our political leanings.  In other words, we tend to ‘misremember’ a lot of things.

So WAPO has been conducting the same exact poll since September 1986 where the respondents are asked the following question:

Is Your Personal Financial Picture Better or Worse than this time last year?
A)  Better Off
B)  Not As Well Off
C)  About the same

Lots of interesting stuff in here. For example, people who felt Better Off increased steadily and dramatically during the Obama years. trump got a little tailwind from that, but the decline began before COVID hit.

The bulk of the increase in Not As Well Off should be charged to Trump, and while the rate of increase has dropped under Biden, it’s still going in the wrong direction.

In the fact of all the economic numbers, which are surprisingly strong. (Remember when we were just weeks away from a recession? It still hasn’t arrived.)

Now, it should be pointed out that this survey was done in February. Gas prices, egg prices and inflation generally have all dropped significantly since then. Moreover unemployment is at a 50-year low. So it could be this data is just out of date.

But the problem with this sort of survey is that it pretends to be about facts

, when it’s more about emotions. It’s about how people FEEL, not what’s in their bank books. So there are a couple of possible explanations:

  1. The White House is doing a bad job of communicating success. They’ve been good on posting data points, but trump’s “the greatest economy in history” — while untrue — has more impact.
  2. The benefits of the Biden economy aren’t distributed evenly. Would need to see some data to see if this is true, but if you’re working a minimum wage job in a time of ANY inflation, yes, you’re going to be worse off.
  3. People moan. Look at the later Clinton years. He had budget SURPLUSES for 1998–2001. That’s a Republican wet dream. The stock market was booming thanks to the internet. Yet just 1 in 3 people said they were better off.

Which brings me back to the final point. Respect for, and trust in, America fell off a cliff under trump. Precise results vary by poll, but generally the only countries where he was above water were Israel and Nigeria. Trust levels tripled under Biden, essentially returning to the level they had been prior to trump.

So why don’t you know this? The best explanation I can come up with is that you’ve been listening to trump and believing him when he says everything was a disaster before he came and immediately after he left. There is ZERO data to support that view, yet about 1/3 of the country believes it.

This might help to explain the negative views of the current economy.



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