WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy continues to be the "most important issue" facing Americans in the last year of Barack Obama's unpopular presidency.
Once again, the underperforming economy in general, unemployment and jobs top the list of the voters' greatest concerns. No other issue comes close, not immigration or terrorism or the budget deficit, according to this month's Gallup Poll.
Nothing else we know about the direction of our country and the mood of the electorate more powerfully expresses the overriding political issue that continues to plague our nation.
"Americans in April continue to cite the economy as the single most important problem for the U.S.," Gallup reports, with 17 percent mentioning the economy generally, and 9 percent more pointing to unemployment and jobs.
"Overall, 40 percent of Americans mention at least one problem that is economic in nature, similar to the past two months," Gallup reported. "Dissatisfaction with government" comes in second, with 13 percent mentioning it as their chief concern.
Obama and the Democrats continue to insist that under their control of the government's executive branch, things have never been better. But Gallup's latest survey found that overall, 71 percent of Americans are "dissatisfied with the country's direction."
Notably, though, while "majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say they are dissatisfied with the country's direction, Republican dissatisfaction (85 percent) far outpaces that of Democrats (54 percent)," Gallup said.
Still, 54 percent of Democrats isn't chopped liver, either, particularly when a Democrat is running the country and controls the economic agenda. And it explains why many Democrats are supporting self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders in their party's presidential primaries and caucuses.
All of this raises profound questions about why so few voters have confidence in the two leading candidates for the GOP presidential nomination -- Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz -- to fix the economy.
"Nearly half of Americans express a 'great deal' or 'fair amount' of confidence" in Sanders (47 percent) and Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio (46 percent) to recommend the right things for the U.S. economy."
Surprisingly, Gallup said its telephone interviews found that these two men drew "the highest ratings among the five remaining presidential candidates."
On the other hand, only 30 percent of Americans had a "great deal or fair amount" of confidence in Trump to handle the economy, while a whopping 68 percent said they had "only a little/almost none."
Cruz didn't do much better. Only 35 percent had confidence in him to strengthen the economy, while 60 percent had "only a little" or "almost none."
Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' prohibitive front-runner, doesn't evoke a great deal of confidence on this score, either. Only 35 percent said "a great deal or fair amount," while a 56 percent majority said "a little or almost none."
The difference between Trump and Cruz, and Sanders and Kasich, on economic issues is dramatic, and for this reason: The former rarely talk about the economy, at least not in any detail, and the latter have made it the center of their candidacies.
Trump just says, "I will be the greatest jobs president," but the voters aren't getting a persuasive message how he intends to do that.
Cruz has to a large degree identified his campaign with constitutional issues and has proposed a flat tax that will never be approved by Congress.
Sanders' socialist proposals, it goes without saying, are not the answers to the economy's lethargy, and his war on big corporations, capital investment and Wall Street would further weaken our anemic economy.
But however wrongheaded he is, his relentless focus on the economy, incomes, and struggling Americans who can't make ends meet certainly appeals to a lot of voters.
Kasich is running on his economic record, which he has made one of the centerpieces of his campaign, and he's got the numbers that prove his pro-growth, pro-job, pro-investment solutions work.
Ohio had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country before he was elected to two terms, but today it is at a low 4.9 percent. Equally important, he spends a lot of time talking about economic issues wherever he goes.
Unfortunately, Kasich began his campaign too late and has never caught fire with the broad base of his party. Still, the fact that nearly half of Americans Gallup polled express "a great deal" or "fair amount" of confidence in his ability to handle the economy shows that they're listening.
Yet six in 10 Americans "continue to believe that upper-income Americans pay too little in taxes," and these are the people who buy into Bernie Sanders' demagoguery.
But countless studies, from the IRS to economic think tanks, show that this isn't true. Wealthier Americans pay the lion's share of tax revenues. The richest 1 percent, for example, pays nearly 24 percent of the taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Raising taxes on wealthier Americans, as Obama has done, has shrunk job-creating capital investment in our economy. And that's one of the chief reasons why good-paying full-time jobs are in short supply.
President Clinton signed a GOP bill in his second term that cut the capital gains tax, and it unleashed a high-tech job boom in the late 1990s.
Sadly, a majority of voters still aren't buying any of this, and our economy is suffering as a result.
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