Despite Strong National Numbers, The Trump Economy Is Hurting Many Americans

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It may be “kitchen table economics,” not national economic data, which influences how Americans feel about the United States economy in the run-up to the 2020 election, writes Robert Reich in an opinion piece for The Guardian. Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and was the United States secretary of labor.

According to Reich, there is difference between how people view the overall economy as compared to how they feel about their own personal economic situation. Reich says that it is often the kitchen table economics, a reflection of conversations had around the kitchen table when paying bills and discussing personal finances, that influences thinking more than the broader economic numbers, which may or may not reflect the reality for any given family.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to the impressions Americans have about the economy. Mick Mulvaney, who is currently the White House acting chief of staff, recently predicted a Trump victory in 2020 on the basis of strong economic sentiments.

“People will vote for somebody they don’t like if they think it’s good for them,” Mulvaney said, betting that for many a strong economy would trump any personal distaste a given voter might have for the president. Many Democrats gearing up for the 2020 election are undoubtedly feeling the anxiety of their party attempting to defeat a sitting president presiding over a strong economy.

Still, Reich says, it won’t matter how strong national economic indicators like unemployment might be if such voters feel that their own personal economic situation fails to reflect those statistics.

“There’s a difference between how Americans view the overall economy and how they see their own personal economy. That difference has widened in recent years as more people get into financial trouble even as the economy soars,” he writes. “Which means the official economic statistics have less relevance to what people tell each other over the kitchen table when they’re trying to pay the bills.”

According to a survey by The Washington Post and ABC News published earlier this month, more than 80 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents said the economic system in the United States works mainly to the benefit of those in power, rather than Americans as a whole. When it comes to Republicans alone, almost a third of Republicans agreed with the sentiment.

In any case, the strength of both the national economy and the ones discussed around the kitchen table have plenty of time to evolve between now and election day.