Friday, October 30, 2009

I think it was during the 1980 presidential race that I first noticed the term 'misery index', the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate, and where (obviously) the higher the index, the less well-off was the economy.

While some attribute Reagan's victory to the index being on the high side in the months leading up to the election, I don't think most voters actually knew or paid attention to the actual statistics. Rather, I think most people had anecdotal evidence that the economy was doing poorly: news reports of people without jobs, easier rush hour commutes, attributable to fewer people having jobs and needing to go to and from jobs, neighborhood businesses closing, their own businesses having to tighten belts, etc. I think it was more of a 'statistics? I don't need no stinking statistics to know that the economy sucks' than a analysis of economic indicators.

And I think the same dynamic holds right now... which may lead to people discounting - and ridiculing - the Administration's claims of how many jobs their stimulus has 'created or saved'? When people hear reports of continuing layoffs, when they continue to see foreclosure sales in their neighborhoods, when they see businesses in the area shutting down, when they see malls that aren't as crowded as they seemed to be just a couple of years ago... well, that is evidence that just doesn't jibe with the rosy claims coming out of the Obama Administration.

And as Bush found out with Iraq, where a constant drumbeat of negative images (car bombings, counts of military deaths, etc.) undermined his public assertion that things were progressing in Iraq, that we were getting ever closer to finally winning the war, and with it, his believability, so too may Obama finding people tuning him out. While the American people have little patience with those who fail to deliver (whether as President on the economy or the local pro athlete at the plate), they think even less of those who don't deliver but act as if they have.