D. Dowd Muska

 

This Week's Column

   

 

Why Populism Won’t Play in 2016

May 21, 2015

Ain’t it awful?

No. Not really.

“During the first quarter of 2015,” Airlines for America disclosed, “10 publicly traded U.S. passenger carriers collectively reported a … net profit of $3.1 billion, or 8.4 percent, which improved from 1.1 percent during the same period in 2014. Operating revenues rose 3.1 percent year over year, due in large part to a 3.9 percent increase in the number of air travelers.” The trade association predicts a surge in volume this summer -- up 4.5 percent, to 222 million, over 2014.

Automakers, The New York Times reported, “nearly across the board reported strong April sales gains in the United States, powered by the continued rise in sales of pickup trucks and crossover sport utility vehicles.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz have good news for freshly minted college grads: “After declining for nearly two years, openings for jobs requiring a college degree have picked up since last summer. Not only has this increase in the demand for educated workers continued to push down the unemployment rate for recent graduates, but it has also finally started to help reduce underemployment.”

poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals found that the number of unemployed Americas who have “completely given up looking for work” fell seven percentage points from last year. The jobless rate has fallen by nearly half since its October 2009 apogee.

Gallup’s survey of consumer expenditures found that in April, spending was “up $5 from the March average and [was] higher than the $88 daily average for last April. This is on top of a fairly strong March increase of $4, a potentially positive sign for the economy. The April increase is the largest month-to-month increase since November 2014.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, last month saw homebuilding leap “to the highest level since before the recession officially began, a sign of thaw in the housing market during the crucial spring selling season.” Growth was “broad-based,” with single-family homes rising 16.7 percent and multifamily units increasing 27.2 percent.

Only fools believe it’s Morning in America. But the Great Recession isn’t inflicting the pain it once did. The economy is staggering to its feet. And that reality can’t be welcome at Hillary for America headquarters.

The candidate who wants to “make the words ‘middle class’ mean something again” isn’t likely to change her messaging. “Everyday Americans and their families,” Clinton avers, “need a champion.” Get used to hearing that phrase. A lot.

In her defense, Clinton can’t help herself. The moonbat community has invested as much in “income inequality” as it has in “climate change.” On the right and the left, when the facts fail to confirm fiercely held -- indeed, near-religious -- beliefs … well, then it’s time to ignore the facts.

Class warfare worked for the present president, in large part, because his party nominated him during an economic apocalypse. (A deeply despised incumbent helped, too.) Between the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s October 2007 peak and the day before Barack Obama was elected, the index lost 34.2 percent of its value. Unemployment had been rising for a year and a half. And the housing bust had been underway since 2006.

Absent serious economic downturns, populist screeching about the rapaciousness of “the top 1 percent” doesn’t resonate widely. In a December 2014 exposé of liberal whining over “meager real income growth,” Stephen Rose eviscerated the sorely specious methodologies behind claims of stagnation. (Leaving out transfer payments and tax burdens are favorite tricks.) The left-wing economist stipulated that the underclass remained an issue, but assembled a titanic trove of evidence to show that “most people don’t have problems with the necessities and economic growth today takes the form of better and more diverse products, a wider array of services, and more recreation.”

Americans may not love the rich, but they certainly aspire to be affluent. Gallup’s latest polling on “money and wealth in this country today” revealed that 63 percent felt that income should be “more evenly distributed.” But an April survey by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that while 28 percent were more concerned about the “income gap,” 68 percent considered “not being able to get ahead” a greater problem.

True to form for an ideologue with poorly calibrated political instincts, Hillary Clinton has crafted a message that’s out of tune with the daily experiences of ordinary Americans, as well as long-held beliefs about the opportunities available in the Land of the Free.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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