The Pox of Pocketbook Politics

“People vote their pocketbooks,” my dad said almost any time he was engaged in a political conversation. As I listened to a focus group podcast hosted by The Bulwark, my father’s words came back to me loud and clear.

As the moderator asked each member of the South Carolina Republican focus group his or her view on the state of the nation, without fail, every one of them immediately zeroed in on the economy—specifically on how the economy was affecting his or her life.

None of them had been rendered homeless or hungry, but all had been inconvenienced.

Recession is Relative, Right?

None of them had been rendered homeless or hungry, but all had been inconvenienced—and all were as mad as a mule chewin’ on bumblebees. Five dollars for a gallon of gas is reason for rebellion. And if I have to settle for a $40,000 Chevy Colorado instead of that $65,000 Silverado I’ve had my eye on, well then I’ll be madder than a mosquito in a mannequin factory.

And every one of them blamed President Biden for his or her inconvenienced life. And, not surprisingly, all wanted to return to the good old days of the Trump presidency, when life was good. For them.

Back then, we had a strong president who was ready to order American troops to shoot illegal aliens. If only Dems and RINOs hadn’t gotten in the way. Even so, Murica was respected around the world. Back then, the economy was soaring. Nothing at all like nowadays when inflation is through the roof, illegal aliens are invading, and other nations are laughing while eating our lunch. The Trump years were nothing like today. They were the good old days, all of them believed.

Trumpists’ Selective Memory

Or were they? “Some 6.5 million jobs were added between 2017 and 2019 [the Trump years prior to COVID].” However, “…more than eight million jobs [were added] … in the three prior years, under Barack Obama.” In addition, “The best year of [Trump’s] presidency saw a three-percent rise in 2018, compared to 3.1 percent in 2015 under Obama. As recently as 2004 and 2005, under President George W. Bush, the economy grew 3.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.”

Meanwhile, “The nation's gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — expanded 5.7% in 2021 [during Biden’s term]. It was the strongest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 after a previous recession. The economy ended the year by growing at an unexpectedly brisk 6.9% annual pace from October through December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.”

RealClear Politics’ Real Clear Lens

Despite a booming overall economy in these Biden years, inflation is hitting many hard these days. So, who is really to blame for that? Not surprisingly, far-right “news” sources blame Biden and only Biden. But is that fair? Mona Charen, a non-Trumpist former Republican, realistically argued in a RealClear Politics piece that…

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve has been shoveling money out the door with pitchforks, and in the wake of COVID-19, both the central bank and the federal government have been "dropping money from helicopters," to use the image coined by Milton Friedman.

Many economists believe the Fed was right to do this as a response to the financial crisis of 2008. The controversy arises about when it was time to stop. Arguably, the Trump years were the right time. But that's not what the Trump-led GOP favored.

Trump's money gusher began in 2017 with the $1.9 trillion tax cut that wasn't matched with any spending cuts. …

If Republicans were worried about inflation, they might have spoken up about Trump's attempt to flood the economy with easy cash (to say nothing of eroding the norm about political influence on the Fed).

With the dual demons of Trumpists’ voodoo economics and COVID complications—which Trump’s bungled response exacerbated—inflation was going to hit the nation regardless of who was elected president in 2020.

But, generally speaking, voters’ memories are shorter than the runt of a wiener dog litter. And their genuine comprehension of economic and political issues is about as deep as petunia roots. So, Trumpists—like those in the focus group mentioned above—hail their Messiah and vilify the one they blame for their three-dollar loaf of bread.

Little Else Registers … and That’s the Problem

War in Ukraine? Yeah, heard of it. Don’t know or care much about it. Roe versus Wade possibly being overturned? What’s that? Climate crisis? I heard it’s a hoax. Voter suppression laws? No problem if they don’t include me. A former President leading an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and destroy our nation’s Constitutionally established election system? Fake news. Six dollars for a Big Mac? It’s time for war against the commie dems!

Yeah, Pops was right; people vote their pocketbooks. For some folks, that’s necessary. For far too many others, it’s the self-centered greed that’s destroying this nation.