The desperate attempts by the White House, congressional Democrats, and the corporate media to refocus voter attention on abortion rather than inflation are failing. Most reputable polls show that the electorate is far more concerned about mismanagement of the economy by President Biden and his collaborators in Congress than about threats to reproductive rights posed by “MAGA Republicans.” Contrary to Democratic hopes, November won’t be about abortion vs. inflation. The midterms will be a referendum on Biden’s performance, particularly as it affects inflation.
This is almost always true for the first midterm of a president’s tenure, but the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling gave Democrats false hope that they could defy history. This may have been possible if the Biden administration hadn’t committed so many fiscal blunders. As it is, polls conducted in September clearly indicate that Americans are deeply unhappy about the sorry state of the economy and that they know who to blame. According to a PBS/NPR/Marist poll, for example, “Six in ten Americans think the nation’s economy is in a recession … and more than half think President Joe Biden has weakened the economy.”
This would not be as lethal for the Democrats if it involved a less visible issue, but voters are being mugged daily by the grim reality of inflation. Consequently, their responses to the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris poll were all too predictable. Registered voters were asked, “What would you say are the most important issues facing the country today? Please select three.” The top answers were, “Price increases/Inflation” (39 percent), “Economy and jobs” (26 percent), and “Immigration” (22 percent). The economic situation was also the top priority for that critical voter bloc — Independents. As pollster David Winston writes at Roll Call:
Independents tend to prioritize the economy as their top issue and have particular concerns about government spending and the national deficit. In this week’s WTI survey, 44 percent said that the economy/inflation (including jobs and gas prices) was their top issue. No other issue breaks into double digits. Independents also believe, by an overwhelming margin, that the economy is headed in the wrong direction (15 percent right direction to 68 percent wrong track), and only 13 percent believe that inflation will be better by the end of the year.
Even polls with well-documented histories of Democratic bias report that economic concerns continue to overshadow abortion as the primary motivating factor for midterm voters. The Morning Consult poll, for example, has a mean-reverted bias of D+2.9 according to FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings. Yet, as recently as September 13, its “Midterm Tracker” contained bad news for Democrats who still hope that abortion can save them in November: “Voters are most likely to say the economy is ‘very important’ in deciding whom they’ll vote for, followed by gun policy, education, abortion and immigration.”
If Morning Consult shows concern about the economy on top and abortion at number four, it means the spin isn’t working. Nor will risible claims by our president that “prices have been essentially flat in our country these last two months.” If the costs of basic necessities are still spiking in November, that is what the voters will be thinking about when they cast their midterm ballots. And many economists think inflation will last through 2023 into 2024. Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, recently told CNBC that inflation is due to incompetence by Biden’s Fed Chair, Jerome Powell:
The problem we have is that the Chairman [of the Federal Reserve Board] does not understand, even at this point, what the causes of inflation are and were. He’s still going on about supply-side glitches. He has failed to tell us that inflation is always caused by excess growth in the money supply — turning the printing presses on.… We had an unprecedented growth in the money supply in the United States, and that is why we are having inflation now — and that’s why, by the way, we will continue to have inflation through 2023 going into probably 2024.
Hanke also predicted that mismanagement of the money supply by Powell will inevitably stunt economic growth: “We’re going to have one whopper of a recession in 2023.” This should not be taken lightly. Hanke was among the first economists to predict the current inflationary spiral in a Wall Street Journal column published last year. His point was that Powell was ignoring the economic impact of the rapidly expanding money supply and that inflation would be the inevitable result. All of this may seem like inside baseball, but the effect of Powell’s failures on the lives of real Americans has not been subtle.
The voters don’t need to understand the principles of monetarism to understand the damage inflation does to their budgets. They don’t need to look at the latest Real Earnings summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grasp that their real wages are declining. They don’t need to monitor the stock market to understand what happens to their 401(k) plans when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 1,200 points in a single day. They do, however, know who is running the country and that former President Trump and those sinister MAGA Republicans aren’t involved. Biden and the Democrats own the economy.
And no amount of horror fiction from the Fourth Estate about abortion bans and coat hangers will divert voter attention from inflation or the economy in general. No balderdash from Biden about the Orwellian “Inflation Reduction Act” is going to reconcile voters with food prices that have risen 11.4 percent since last year this time, or with energy prices that are up 23.8 percent, or with gasoline prices still 25.6 percent higher, ad infinitum. The voters know they are worse off since Joe Biden and the Democrats regained control of the White House and Congress. They will largely ignore abortion and vote their pocketbooks in November.