Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Robert Reich writes that:

R’s are winning the big one—framing Am’s core problem as big government rather than the shrinking middle class & growing plutocracy.

That’s true, but not for the reasons Reich may think.  Yes, some Democratic and Republican politicians, including Obama, appear to agree that government spending should decrease.  But that’s not because Republicans have won some framing war.  That appears to be the sincere preference of the GOP, obviously, as well as Obama and many Democrats. I mean, even Nancy Pelosi thinks we “must enter an era of austerity.”

More importantly, Reich’s tweet is absolutely not a true statement about Americans.  Americans have a very clear idea of America’s “core problem.”  It is not “big government.”  It is a weak economy. Here is Gallup:

For more, see the new Washington Post/ABC poll, summarized here and here.  This CBS-NYT poll perhaps captures it best.  When asked about the most important problem facing the country, 53% of Americans said the economy or jobs (up from 39% in April).  Only 7% said the deficit or debt.  And only 2% said the size of government.

People are debating endlessly over whether who will win the “politics” of the debt ceiling battle, Obama or the GOP.  It doesn’t matter.  Or to be more precise, and to repeat my earlier post, it only matters insofar as the debt ceiling, the deficit, government spending, etc. affect the broader economy.

This is why Obama is not “winning” in the eyes of voters now, even though he polls better than the GOP with regard to the debt ceiling.  In reality, his approval rating has dropped about 6 points since the “bump” after the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Perhaps this was just an inevitable return to the status quo ante.  But it could easily be a simple consequence of growing economic pessimism.

Unfortunately for Obama, there is little in any of the debt ceiling proposals that is likely to make people more optimistic.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.