I hope I am exaggerating when I write “riots,” but there is anxiety about the economy that makes me wonder if people are going to remain blind to how much Obamacare has made things worse.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll that indicated that Americans expected Obamacare to hurt the country and that they were keeping track of economic news. Now the Washington Post is reporting that workers are under “unprecedented anxiety” regarding their jobs and the economy.
More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry “a lot” about losing their jobs, also a record high, according to the joint survey, which explores Americans’ changing definition of success and their confidence in the country’s future. The Miller Center is a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia specializing in public policy, presidential scholarship and political history.
Job insecurities have always been higher among low-income Americans, but they typically rose and fell across all levels of the income ladder. Today, workers at the bottom have drifted away, occupying their own island of insecurity.
Fifty-four percent of workers making $35,000 or less now worry “a lot” about losing their jobs, compared with 37 percent of lower-income workers in 1992 and an identical number in 1975, according to surveys by Time magazine, CNN and Yankelovich. Intense worry is far lower, 29 percent, among workers with incomes between $35,000 and $75,000, and it drops to 17 percent among those with incomes above that level.
So shouldn’t these people, who are suddenly getting new access to healthcare, with Federal subsidies, feel like they have more wealth at their disposal? The Affordable Care Act is never mentioned in this piece; it seems like an odd absence.
Furthermore, support for Obama does not seem to translate into a rosier view of the economy.
Americans’ economic perceptions often divide along political lines; supporters of the incumbent president are usually more optimistic about the job market and the health of the economy. But that’s not the case with this new anxiety. Once you control for economic and demographic factors, there is no partisan divide. There’s no racial divide, either, and no gender gap. It also doesn’t matter where you live.
If people who want to believe in Obama still suffer unprecedented anxiety about the economy, I think there is a real possibility that they are going to begin questioning him. At the very least they are less likely to show up at the polls to vote for Democrats.
This article also really demonstrated what kind of audience the writers at the Washington Post are aiming for.
Adjusting for inflation, average household incomes for the poorest 40 percent of workers have fallen steadily — by more than 10 percent, total — since 2000.
Lower-income workers get most of their money from wages, as opposed to investments or other capital gains, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute, who writes extensively about unemployment and income.
“It’s no surprise that security concerns are off the map now [among those workers] because the labor market is so bad,” Shierholz said. “High unemployment hurts workers across the board, but it hurts workers with low and moderate incomes more.”
Get that? The Washington Post felt it needed to explain to its readers that there are people who live by what they get paid in exchange for their labor. Not everyone has investments.
Furthermore, the inflation that people with investments are exuberant about, because it has pushed the stock market to record highs, is directly robbing the lower income wage earners, who see their purchasing power shrink. Federal Reserve policy is robbing from the poor and giving to the rich.