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The economic success story many Americans know nothing about

The disconnect between public attitudes on the economy and our economic reality is dramatic.


Building Back Together, a group that exists to help promote President Joe Biden’s agenda, launched a $1 million ad campaign this week to help amplify the White House’s economic message. The effort, not surprisingly, was designed to coincide with the Democrat’s State of the Union address, where Biden made a point to celebrate the strength of the ongoing economic recovery.

By all appearances, it’s a message much of the country has not previously heard.

There’s ample evidence of a disconnect between how the American president is handling the crisis in Ukraine and how much of the public thinks he’s handling the crisis in Ukraine, but when it comes to the economy, the disconnect is even more dramatic.

USA Today reported earlier this week on the results of the latest national poll from Suffolk University. The survey data pointed to a discouraged public on a variety of fronts, and included one result that stood out as extraordinary:

Despite economic growth and low unemployment, a 51% majority of those surveyed say the economy is in a recession or a depression, the gloomiest outlook in six years.

A couple of days later, the latest Gallup poll found 42 percent of Americans describing national economic conditions as “poor” — up five points from Gallup’s previous survey — and 70 percent of Americans saying economic conditions are getting worse.

In other words, as the United States experiences one of the strongest economic recoveries in generations, much of the public doesn’t even believe the recovery exists.

But it most certainly does. The unemployment is now 3.8 percent, a level so low that the United States did not reach it at all throughout the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. The economy created over 6.7 million jobs in 2021 — a total never before seen in the United States — and 2022 is off to an even more impressive start. Economic growth last year was the strongest in nearly four decades.

Not only did no one think this was possible a year ago, none of the other leading economies on the planet have had a recovery as robust as ours.

And yet, if recent polling is right, Americans are gloomy. Inflation obviously has a lot to do with that. The fact that the public hasn’t heard much about the strength of the recovery also no doubt plays a role. The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey also recently noted the role of “strong partisanship,” which makes a difference.

That said, as The New York Times’ Paul Krugman noted in his latest column, “[W]hat voters believe does not always reflect reality. When Biden administration officials argue that they’ve done a better job on the economy than they get credit for, they have truth on their side.”