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Policy Summary
In spite of generally positive economic indicators there are worrisome trends emanating from the Midwest, particularly in five essential swing states.  Manufacturing and agriculture have been impacted by the tariff wars and there is every indication that even if the tariffs are rolled back the affected regions will not bounce back until after the election.

More specifically, job growth has decelerated almost to stagnation in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  There is evidence that the repercussions of the decrease in trade has extended to the movement and shipping of goods.  Trump’s reduction in tariffs, announced December 13, was touted as a new beginning for the regionb but such declarations often have given was to false hopes of real continuity and relief.  These trends to not bode well for working people in these areas.

Analysis:
Trump has boasted of the excellent economic indicators which he attributes to his administration.  Attitudes towards the effectiveness of economic policies are good indicators of the electorate’s sentiments.  Moody’s Analytics economists are predicting a Trump re-election, as are other entities using different models.  Most draw on unemployment data, gas prices, basic economic indicators, approval ratings, and voter turnout in various combinations.  Unemployment is at an all-time 50 year low and predicted to improve in 2020 along with the easing of the trade war.  Major metropolitan areas are booming but the “rust belt” is suffering job losses.

Currently, there is a significant chasm between the macro indicators signifying a strong economy and the subjective feeling of “everyday” Americans.  Democrats suggest that though 401Ks are doing well they are offset by increases in cost of living particularly in education, healthcare, daycare, and retirement. Pew surveys indicate that 49% percent of Americans are worried about their immediate finances with another 25% worried about the future.

These fears pre-date Trump but are exacerbated by fears surrounding the corrosion of the Affordable Care Act.  Satisfaction with the economic situation has fallen 8% between May and October though 52% of poll respondents still approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.  Pew surveys shows that 58% feel the economy is hurting the middle class and 64% say it hurts the poor while 69% suggest it is helping the wealthy.  There is a general feeling, shown by Democratic PACs, that the candidates really need to focus very strongly on the day-to-day help they can offer to working Americans.  Highlighting broken promises made by Trump can support this effort.  For example, Trump’s claim that an Ohio auto plant would “come back,” actually was in contradiction to the eventual closing of the plant.

A person’s view of the economy is strongly tied to their partisan identification.  Republican views of the economy rose with Trump’s election.  Seventy five percent of Republicans assess the economy as excellent or good while 41% of Democrats do the same.  Notable is the fact that Trump’s approval rating remains consistent at about 41.7%.  The Democrats must be targeted  when they criticize the overall indicators and their impact on “average” Americans.

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Photo by Markus Spiske

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