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How does Wile E. Coyote’s perspective shed light on American voters’ depression despite a robust economy? | US economy


Sep 16, 2023

As you stroll through the vibrant Fourth Ward and witness the charm of restored Victorian homes and the bustling atmosphere of The Crankleton bar, you cannot help but be captivated by the rich Southern ambiance of Charlotte. However, despite the picturesque surroundings, it seems that people are not content, as indicated by recent polls. High Point University’s Confidence Tracker reveals that consumer sentiment in North Carolina is currently lower than during the peak of the pandemic. According to Martin Kiefer, director of the university’s Center for Research, “People aren’t feeling particularly well.”

This dissatisfaction is not confined to North Carolina alone. Official data suggests that the United States has experienced a remarkable recovery from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent recession. In April 2020, over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, causing the unemployment rate to soar to 14.7%. However, the rebound has been equally striking, with the unemployment rate hovering near a 50-year low since January 2022, currently standing at 3.8%. In North Carolina, it is even lower at 3.3%. The city is witnessing a continuous influx of over 100 new residents every day. Despite these positive economic indicators, a Guardian/Harris Poll study reveals that 68% of Americans find it challenging to find happiness when they feel financially strained.

The implications of this widespread dissatisfaction are concerning for the Biden administration, especially in potential swing states where the success or failure of Biden’s economic strategy, known as Bidenomics, will be a crucial issue in the upcoming election. The perception of the economy, whether accurate or not, will undoubtedly shape the outcome of one of the most significant elections in American history. The divide among Americans regarding the economy is evident, with more than half (53%) believing that the economy is deteriorating, according to the Harris Poll. This view is shared by 72% of Republicans and 32% of Democrats. However, unhappiness is prevalent across party lines, as only one-third of Democrats believe in an improving economy, despite reports of financial stability. The Federal Reserve Board’s annual survey on economic health reveals that 73% of households expected to be “at least financially okay” by the end of 2022, a slight decrease from 75% in 2019. Nevertheless, only 18% of households considered the domestic economy to be good or excellent in 2022, compared to 50% before.

Notable figures, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former New York Fed President Bill Dudley, have raised concerns about the U.S. economy, dubbing it a “Wile E. Coyote economy.” Like the cartoon character chasing after the Road Runner, the U.S. economy may be on the verge of a precipitous fall. Dudley warns that “returning to reality is not a pleasant experience.” The disconnect between economic data and sentiment can be partially explained by a line graph of consumer sentiment by political affiliation. However, other significant factors are transforming the U.S. economy and contributing to this perception of instability.

One such factor is the plight of low-wage workers who have long struggled to keep up with rising costs. Aisha Francis, a resident of Durham, North Carolina, has experienced a marginal increase in her wages from $12.50 to $17. Despite this raise, she asserts that “everything looks the same: Inflation isn’t going down, it’s just not going up.” The rising prices of staple items have forced her to switch to cheaper alternatives, altering her family’s grocery shopping habits. Even entrepreneurs like Tam Curtis, owner of The Cocktail, a brick-and-mortar store, feel the strain of the post-COVID-19 economy. Curtis remarks that “inflation is killing me,” as the costs of necessary supplies for her business have skyrocketed. Additionally, obtaining financial support from traditional banks has become more challenging, particularly for minority and women-owned businesses.

While some local businesses have thrived post-COVID-19, existential questions loom, suggesting a broader recession may be on the horizon. Desmond Wigan, co-founder of BatteryXchange, initially designed his business to cater to busy individuals attending meetings or social events. However, the pandemic forced Wigan to adapt, leading to a shift in clientele. BatteryXchange now rents equipment to healthcare providers, ensuring their customers stay connected. Although his business is successful, Wigan expresses concerns about the United States’ ability to think beyond short-term election cycles, contrasting the forward-thinking mindset he observed in China during his two-year stay there. Wigan also highlights the age difference among American leaders and suggests that other countries are beginning to outpace the United States in terms of long-term planning.

The reasons for the public’s unease with the visible economy are multifaceted and are a subject of concern for both the White House and Nobel Prize-winning economists. It is a complex issue that requires historical analysis to fully understand. For now, it seems that the discrepancy between official statistics and people’s sentiments may be temporary. The overarching forces reshaping the U.S. economy, coupled with economic uncertainty, contribute to this pervasive unease. Only time will tell how these factors will impact the future economy and the upcoming elections.

By Editor

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