Article from todays NYTimes
The View From Crawford
Published: August 12, 2005
The most surprising thing about the public's dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of the economy, as expressed in recent polls, is the administration's apparent astonishment at Mr. Bush's low marks. His advisers have offered various explanations. Treasury Secretary John Snow says that strong consumer spending indicates that people don't feel as bad about the economy as they tell pollsters. He also suggests that part of the problem is that "less educated people have seen their incomes and wages grow more slowly." Before a meeting with top economic advisers in Crawford this week, the president cited the high cost of energy and health care as weighing on "the future of economic growth."
There may be some truth to that. But the overarching explanation is that people are feeling insecure because they understand that today's economy is built on shaky fundamentals. Average Americans may not sit around fretting about America's outsized budget and trade deficits, and its unprecedented foreign indebtedness. But many of them - as buyers, borrowers and employees - are concerned about the increasingly bubbly housing sector.
The economy's shortcomings are nowhere more obvious than in the job market. Nearly four years into an economic expansion, job growth is still substantially slower than in previous recoveries. Wages for 80 percent of the work force are barely keeping pace with inflation, and aid for the workers hurt by global trade is paltry. Because Mr. Bush fails to acknowledge the lackluster job and wage growth, he fails to respond appropriately. The administration's insistence that the economy is getting better all the time - a stance that is based on statistical aggregates that are often divorced from individuals' actual experience - only intensifies the anxiety that people feel.
After the meeting in Crawford, participants said health care costs had been a major topic of discussion, though they wouldn't say what, if any, policies the president might pursue. Instead, they crowed about the administration's postvacation plans: to redouble efforts to privatize Social Security and to embark on "tax reform," which is premised, in part, on permanent tax cuts for the wealthy and would therefore mean bigger deficits, drastic cuts in government services or higher taxes for everyone else.
At his vacation home, Mr. Bush told reporters that "the economy of the United States is strong and the foundation for sustained growth is in place." The view from Crawford is clearly rosier than from where most Americans sit.
"Where am I going and what am I doing in this handbasket?"