At the beginning of the summer, polls suggested that Americans were almost starting to feel better about the economy. But as back-to-school season picks up, consumer confidence in the economy remains stuck in the negatives — and it’s heading further south.
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index registered minus 14 last week. In late May and early June, the index registered an all-time weekly high of minus 3, it but hasn’t gone above minus 10 since mid-July.
Forty-two percent of Americans say the economy is improving, while 54 percent say it’s getting worse. Twenty percent rated current economic conditions “excellent” or “good,” and 35 percent called them “poor.”
The Gallup Poll attributes the results to discouraging employment news, rising mortgage rates, and other factors. While the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in July when the economy added 162,000 jobs, the numbers were fewer than expected. At that rate of job growth, it would take about seven years to close the job gap created by the recession, The New York Times reported. Also in July, the rate at which new homes were sold fell 13.4 percent compared with June. Mortgage rates, however, have been steadily rising since May.
As the U.S. approaches the debt ceiling, moving ever closer toward default, more dips in confidence should be expected in the fall. Americans’ outlook on the economy has shown a tendency to coincide with such political events. Confidence plummeted in the summer of 2011 when Congress agreed to a deal at the last minute to raise the debt ceiling, which led to a downgrade of the country’s credit rating. Gallup also registered decreases at the end of last year during the fiscal-cliff debate and in early March when sequestration went into effect.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew projected that the department’s “extraordinary measures” currently being undertaken to avoid default will be “exhausted in the middle of October.” If history has a way of repeating itself, the prediction does not bode well for Americans’ feelings about the recovering economy.
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President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).