For several months, it seemed that news stories more and more were persuading us that genuine economic recovery was well underway. Whatever hope that gave the public has melted in the heat of the summer. This is bad news for political leaders like President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's also bad for average Americans. They're the ones actually living out this prolonged nightmare.
I conducted my own Towery Poll of 768 registered voters nationwide on June 9 and June 10. The question was simple:
"What is your opinion of the current status of the U.S. economy?"
Thirty-three percent said it was improving; 26 percent said it has remained "about the same;" and 37 percent said it was declining. The rest were undecided. The poll was weighted for age, race, gender and political affiliation, and had a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
Most telling in this survey was that, for the most part, only those who identified themselves as Democrats believed the economy was improving. Fifty percent of Republicans said the economy was declining and -- more importantly -- 46 percent of independent voters agreed. Very few among these two political groups felt things were getting better.
With news of continued sagging sales in the housing arena, a continued high unemployment rate, and anxiety over wage and job security, these poll findings should surprise no one. Well, no one except maybe the political elites in Washington and the out-of-touch financial crowd on Wall Street. They still don't seem to comprehend that "Main Street" people continue to struggle. Regular Joes and Janes are wondering if anyone can get a handle on what clearly remains a global economic slide.
Don't believe my poll? Then consider a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in late June. It asked a slightly different question: Where might the economy be 12 months from now?
Twenty-three percent said it would get worse; 43 percent said it would stay about the same; 33 percent said it would get better. Notice that 33 percent number for those who are optimistic about the economy matches the 33 percent in my poll who said the economy was improving.
Let's face it: We are a year-and-a-half into the Obama administration, and less than a third of the country believes the economy is now or will be improving in the next year. These numbers are a political disaster for the Democrats because it's mostly only partisan Democrats who display any optimism.
For the pointy-headed -- those out of touch because they reside in Washington or on Wall Street -- let explain why "Main Street" is so pessimistic.
If someone owns a house, they are likely seeing its value continue to plunge. They're wondering if they have sunk their life savings into a money pit that will leave them tied down until they die.
If someone owns or works for a small business, they are wondering how the bailouts and financial reform helped them. They can't get a loan from their local bank. Cash flow and profit margins are tough because larger companies with whom they do business are squeezing them to death with slower payment terms and tighter budgets of their own.
All of this is taking a huge toll on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. In the Wall Street Journal poll, for the first time, more Americans disapproved of this president's job performance than approved. And among those most interested in the upcoming November elections, 56 percent favored Republican control of Congress.
Between the handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the "drama" over Gen. McChrystal's alleged "out-of-line" comments in an article in Rolling Stone, this White House exudes anything but confidence. Too many Americans are starting to view the Obama administration as an incubator of ideology rather than an implementer of pragmatic solutions.
Unless the goal is to truly destroy capitalism as we know it -- to bring our nation into a new era in which the status quo is personal economic failure for most of us -- then the White House had better get focused, and quick. This is no longer George Bush's economy. It belongs to President Obama, and it looks bleak.