If you were to walk up to almost any American, in any part of the country, and ask them what they thought the most important problem facing the nation today is you are likely to hear the same two words over and over again: the economy.
According to Gallup, more than 50 percent of Americans have given this answer over the past five years that they have been asking the question.
At the height of the recession in 2009, 86 percent said the economy was the most important problem. And the most recent Rasmussen numbers show that 76 percent of voters say that the economy is very important to them in terms of how they will vote in the next congressional election.
Based on these figures, one has to wonder why it is that economic news is pushed so far down the page.
Take the last week for instance.
On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published a report arguing that the Affordable Care Act will lead to over two million workers quitting their jobs or cutting their hours. Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will be able to quit or even stop looking for employment because of the new health benefits.
This is obviously bad news for President Obama and his signature law. The White House has always argued that ObamaCare would add jobs and keep people working. The report clearly plays into the Republican argument that the healthcare law will have a negative impact on economic growth, as Senator Bob Corker said in a statement on Tuesday.
Then fast forward to Friday, when the government announced that only 113,000 jobs were added in January. The expectation had been an additional 178,000 new jobs. The White House called the report “disappointing” and “weak”, but characterized the broader economic growth as “steady-as-she-goes.”
While we all knew that economic recovery would be slow, the notion that “steady-as-she-goes” is an acceptable explanation for what should be called stagnant growth at best is wrongheaded. The American public – who care so deeply about the economy and their own personal job prospects – deserve more.
Despite these two major pieces of economic news, the weekend news cycle was barely concerned with these marquis issues.
We heard more about the snowflake in Sochi that didn’t turn into an Olympic ring – and the ensuing cover-up – than the fact that only 113,000 jobs were added in January.
What’s more, the Obama administration managed to keep focus away from the poor jobs number and the CBO report by flexing executive power. According to Attorney General Eric Holder in a speech to a gay rights group in New York on Saturday, same-sex spouses will be treated just like opposite-sex spouses in court proceedings, prison visitation and law-enforcement benefit programs even in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages.
I am not debating the importance or merit of the decision, which surely deserves discussion, but rather drawing attention to the fact that the timing of the announcement certainly favors luring attention away from bad economic news.
To be sure, the administration has continually played this card. We saw social issues favored over economic proposals in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address.
The American public has spoken: the economy is what matters to them.