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S4 Ep12: Unreliable Narrators (with Jonathan V. Last)

December 9, 2023
Notes
Transcript
The economy isn’t the best…but it could be a lot worse. And our guest thinks voters are catastrophizing too much about the state of things. Sarah’s best friend Jonathan V. Last (JVL) joins the show to argue with voters who aren’t there to argue back.

show notes:
Even Most Biden Voters Don’t See a Thriving Economy

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Focus Group podcast. Sarah Longwell, publisher of the Bulwark. And this week, we’re talking about the economy. Now, if Joe Biden loses the twenty twenty four election, not saying that he will, but if he does, one of the biggest reasons will be the way that people are feeling about the economy. We’re hearing complaints about it from voters across the political spectrum and Biden gets a lot of the blame.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:34

    My guest today is my best friend Jonathan Last Last, editor of the Bulwark, and my co host on two other podcasts, the next level, and the Secret Podcast, which if you are not, a bulwark plus subscriber, you may be missing some of the best content that we have at the bulwark which is me and JBL doing a secret podcast together. His daily newsletter, which is the best thing out there, the triad, And then Mona and Charlie also have a version of the Secret Podcast themselves called just between us. So you need to go check out all that content But JBL, thanks for being here, buddy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:13

    So excited to be back, and I am ready to give you the best episode of this season’s show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:19

    I’m just gonna start by setting this up. So if you don’t listen to the Secret Podcast and you are not familiar with me and JBL’s dynamic, let me just lay it out for you real quick. JBL and I fundamentally look at the world in a different way. There’s a lot of things we agree on, but we have some major fundamental differences.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:38

    True.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:38

    And so when we do the secret pod, like, there’s threads of disagreement, like, in a marriage where you have the same fight over and over We have a version of the same fight, and it really comes down to the different ways that we feel about the people. And the things they say. Is that fair? Do you think? Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:56

    You know, I think, actually, it might even be a little deeper than that. It might even be a a difference in how we see the world itself, which is that I always look at the world and see the fifteen ways it can get worse. And you look at the world and see the fifteen ways it can get better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:14

    This is fair. This is right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:16

    And that’s basically what this argument is too. Right? I mean, we’re looking at the economy, and I’m looking and it’s saying, don’t you understand how good we have it? This could be as good as it gets, and you’re looking and saying, right, but these other things could be better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:28

    Yeah. Okay. I think that’s fair. Here’s the other thing that you don’t know if you don’t listen to us on the Secret Podcast or even the next level, which is I try to keep JBL as far from the focus groups as possible lest he have an aneurysm or say something about the people that I find untoward or do a bad impression of an average voter, like a mean impression, a bad voice. And so it is against my better judgment that we’re doing this show today, but JBL and I have been having this really long running conversation about the economy we’re gonna argue it all out, but I just wanna frame it up where he sort of argues that it is unfair the way that voters talk about it being so catastrophically bad.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:12

    And the thing that I always just say is, like, I don’t know what to tell you, buddy. Like, I listen to these voters across the political spectrum Yeah. Week in, week out, and they tell me it’s bad. And so I felt like in order to really get at the meat of this, you needed to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. These voters talking about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:31

    And because I have COVID for the third time, I’m gonna do this with half my immune system tied behind my back, and we are gonna argue this out once and for all. And so let’s get into it here. Okay? Before I hit you with some audio. And I know you’ve gone and watched a bunch of clips
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:48

    and sections.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:49

    We’ll talk about it. Why don’t you frame up your argument? Like, why are they misunderstanding the economy or what do you think is going on? Just frame up your general proposition.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:59

    Yeah. I mean, did you ever used to watch the show House? Basically, Sherlock Holmes, but with Medicine and doctor Gregory House’s mantra was that everybody lies. My thesis is that people are unreliable narrators about their own lives. In every aspect.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:15

    They’re unreliable in their feelings about the economy. They’re unreliable in what they think their political views are. And what we have seen emerge over the last, like, two, three years, and there’s a ton of economic data on this. Is a massive disconnect between people’s opinions and sentiments about the economy and economic reality. And the consumer sentiment stuff that we see shows confidence levels and belief about the economy to be where it was during the great recession of two thousand and eight and two thousand and nine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:52

    That’s what the level of people’s feelings about the economy is. That is wildly disconnected from the reality of what we’re seeing. That is not to say, like, everything’s great and there’s a chicken in every pot and everybody ought to be grateful for Joe Biden. It’s just saying there’s an objective fact. It’s wildly different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:08

    And it’s not just consumers, in fact. Independent small business owners has this fantastic chart out where they look at both hard and soft indicators, this is, again, these people who own businesses, and all the hard indicators like sales, hiring, capital investments are very, very good. And then there’s this enormous gulf where the soft indicators are. All these businessmen saying everything is terrible. And this golf is brand new.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:34

    This didn’t exist before, like, three years ago. And my thesis is that this thing that we’re seeing and the disconnect between people’s feelings and the reality, I’m not saying that their feelings aren’t there. They are very clearly. I’m saying that it’s new and it’s real, and it’s actually more dangerous to Joe Biden and his prospects than if the economy were actually terrible. Because if the economy were actually terrible, then there are things you could do to fix it, and people’s sentiments would follow Once you sever that connection, then you’re just like at the mercy of vibes, and I’m not sure how you fix the vibes on stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:15

    Does that sound reasonable?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:16

    I think it is clearly articulated. Personally, I think something different is going on. I think that the old way that we measure satisfaction versus the new things that people are confronting right now, the challenges are creating this gulf. I don’t just think it’s a difference between perception and reality. We can dig into that more, but I wanna
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:37

    start because I’m gonna impeach some of your witnesses on their on their reality.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:41

    I know what you did with your prep time. And I can’t wait. Okay. Let’s go right in. I wanna start with we could have gone to any focus group to pick these out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:49

    But let’s just throw up some audio of when we say, how do you think things are going in the country? Hit it.
  • Speaker 4
    0:06:57

    Everyone I know is always unemployed. With inflation rising, wages aren’t rising, rents in cities or drawn narrowly high. People aren’t able to buy houses anymore on middle class salaries. It seems the rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer.
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:13

    Crime is really bad in cities, but I guess I’ll just stop there.
  • Speaker 5
    0:07:16

    I know that supposedly the economy is doing better. Like, the GDP is up in things, but for me, it does not feel that way. I know that some things are cheaper, but overall life is getting more expensive. Trying to buy a house right now, like, I told my parents that if people my age or younger, like, they don’t have a house now, they’re not gonna have one. Just like, anybody actually think they’ll retire.
  • Speaker 5
    0:07:37

    Don’t even know seventy five because I’m getting up there and it’s getting closer, but it just I still feel like I’m the same, you know, ten years ago, trying to
  • Speaker 4
    0:07:46

    pay down debts and things like that. I feel fortunate that I don’t want kids, but I also know just factually, I couldn’t afford it if I did want it. And just if we look at numbers, I mean, I think maybe like ten years ago, the average cost of raising a child from zero to eighteen without college tuition was around two hundred thousand dollars and now that’s much closer to three hundred thousand dollars who has that amount of money just to spend.
  • Speaker 6
    0:08:12

    Cost of living, like you mentioned, is kinda tough. We were fortunate enough to just get a home, but it was kinda difficult. And so I do feel like things are turning around just not very quickly, but like you mentioned, I do see light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Speaker 7
    0:08:26

    Because our economy is so bad. But we’re sending all this foreign aid, you know, to Ukraine and everything like that. Nothing else is, like, going back into our economy. It just seems like they made all these changes, inflation, prices are higher, things like that. And there’s nothing being done to offset that.
  • Speaker 8
    0:08:44

    Eggs at one point were insane. And then it’s like, okay, eggs are normal again. But, like, everything else is still just like so expensive, and it’s almost like impossible just to go food shopping and get gas in your car.
  • Speaker 9
    0:08:58

    So far, everything’s pretty stagnant. Money’s not worth as much. I’m getting four point three percent in a savings account. I remember back when that was a five year CD rate. That’s that’s pretty insane.
  • Speaker 9
    0:09:08

    So money’s definitely worth a lot less thirty three with two kids. I make decent money, but here at Lay Lake, past couple of years, it does not feel like it. At all. So I’d say we’re in a pretty bad spot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:20

    So here’s my opening question to you. Who do you think all those people voted for?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:25

    This is cheating because I saw all this stuff. I listened to all of the sound. So here’s here’s the thing. Right? So when I make this argument, about there’s this big disconnect.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:35

    A lot of Democrats say to me, it’s because of Fox News. And I say to them, no. These sentiments, and this is the reason I’m so freaked out about it and why I’ve said it’s like a mass delusion, they are across the board. Democrats feel the same way.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:49

    Right. So to be clear, the answer is all of those people voted for Joe Biden. Those are not two time Trump voters who are trying to find a political reason to say that things are bad.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:00

    Yes. This is why I’m so freaked out about all of this. It’s not like I’m arguing people because I’m I wanna tell them, like, no, you don’t. Don’t you realize how good you have it? The point is, like, something is in the water here, and this is a problem.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:13

    I’m gonna throw some numbers out at you just to put some stats behind the qualitative. So in the recent New York Times, poll, and this is the bad Sienna one that everyone freaked out about. Sixty two percent of Biden voters in swing states thought the economy was fair or poor. Fair or poor, and ninety seven percent of Trump voters thought the same. Among Biden voters age eighteen to twenty nine, eighty nine percent that the economy was fair or poor.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:41

    Now fair you could live with, but it means that nobody thinks it’s good. Which I think if you talk to people at the fed, right, and you looked at the macroeconomic numbers, there’s a lot of people who would be like, The economy is growing. The GDP rate is growing incredibly fast. Unemployment is very low, like, by normal metrics, and this is my thesis. By normal metrics, the economy is good to fair, not poor.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:08

    Pretty
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:09

    good. That’s what I it’s pretty good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:11

    And so I see a lot from you and, like, people like Madiclaces, whatever. And, you know, just recently, I saw a lot of, like, Twitter posts saying things to the effect of, In Joe Biden’s terrible economy, it’s so good that all these people can afford to travel. Voters now expect a different level. Of economic positivity. Like, you make an argument that I think is mired in sort of a expectation from voters thirty or four years ago who had, like, parents or grandparents who remembered the great depression.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:44

    And so was just not an expectation that the economy was always gonna be good. And I think that actually what’s happened is that we have a perception now and expectation. The people right now do not remember interest rates at six or seven percent It was just unheard of. People have been living in sort of good times where even what happened in two thousand eight felt like it was really bad, but it was like a blip. People can sort of get their arms around a short term catastrophic place, that you climb out of versus a sustained mediocre place that that actually feels worse to people, the sustained mediocre place.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:28

    Then it is a perception thing. What do you think of that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:31

    I am not gonna argue against the truth or falsity of that because it may be true. But if it’s true, it’s insane. I understand that two thousand eight was a million years ago, right, in the same way that everything before COVID was a million years ago. Here’s what happened during the great recession. Unemployment went from five percent to nine point five percent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:50

    Can you imagine What people would do today if unemployment was at nine point five percent, two percent of every home in America went into foreclosure. One out of every fifty homes in the country went into foreclosure. And this is not nineteen thirty. This is two thousand eight two thousand nine. I I just don’t understand how to level set anything, you know, with something that again just happened like five minutes ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:17

    But it turns out, like, people really can’t remember that. And I I don’t agree that, like, well, if we just imported the two thousand eight, two thousand nine economic conditions to today, people would be, like, you know, more sublime about it because it’s a momentary shock. I think people would lose their minds if something like two thousand eight happened today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:37

    I agree they would lose their minds. I guess what I’m trying to argue is that the shocks to the system that then we recover from within, like, a four year span mentally, people can compute that better, then they can just sustain mediocrity.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:52

    I’ll disagree with that again too because the recovery from the great recession was like a six year thing. The economy recovered, but it recovered very slowly. Right? It’s all anybody talked about. Was like, this is the worst recovery ever because it just dragged out and it never felt like we were all the way back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:10

    And it took him six years before we really finally felt like, hey, you know, everything is actually back on track, and that’s the economy that Trump then inherited, right, with things going very well. We were just here. We just had one of these things. And in fact, this is one of the reasons that the Biden administration went so heavy on stimulus because one of the lessons learned by economists from how long and prolonged that recovery was from the great recession was that Obama had been too parsimonious and that Democrats should have spent more money faster to goose the recovery along. And so, you know, like everybody’s fighting the last war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:43

    That’s why we spent probably more money than we should have on recovery this time around.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:48

    So they hit you with a different theory. Number one, Biden talked about the k shaped economic recovery and how some people were doing really well and then others weren’t. Isn’t that what we’re seeing here? I mean, wouldn’t that explain why some people are buying boats, which is an example you like to use, and others are barely getting by?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:05

    I I would say for people who don’t read me. Boat sales in America are at an all time high. Never been more boats being sold in America. Make of that what you will. I don’t think that’s right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:16

    I’m sure it’s how people feel, but it isn’t right. When you look at the date on this, I have Again, I did a lot of research and homework for this. The biggest gains in terms of real wage gains, being adjusted for inflation, the biggest have gone to the bottom twenty five percent. So if you were in the bottom twenty five percent of household income, you have seen the largest gains relative to where you were of anybody. And the people who have seen the least are the top twenty five percent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:45

    So this has actually been a bottom lead recovery in that sense, but people don’t feel it. And again, it’s nobody feels Right? The the people who own businesses don’t feel it. The people who are just, you know, working their jobs don’t feel it. And one of my theories is that when Democratic societies become, like, untethered to reality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:06

    That’s when they make terrible choices. When they just feel like they can say that the earth is flat and there’s no big deal or they can say that an election was stolen or that there’s a conspiracy of pedophiles who like to wear babies faces. That’s just like a totally normal accepted thing. When you become unserious like that, that’s when the whole body politics starts to rot and you wind up with catastrophically bad choices.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:30

    Alright. I wanna turn to a group of two time Trump voters, that we talked to just a couple days ago who self identified as very conservative. And we asked about how or whether inflation is changing their holiday plans this year. And this is what we heard.
  • Speaker 10
    0:16:48

    So I’ve already talked to a friend who works for Delta, and I’ve done this before. I’m asking if I could use a buddy pass, it cuts my flights. Tremendously. It’s a little bit of a hassle because you fly standby, and you have to wait around. But I don’t have another seven hundred dollars for a holiday three and a half weeks away or four weeks away, whatever it is.
  • Speaker 10
    0:17:07

    I don’t have it. Like, I simply don’t have it. I usually donate to several organizations. I’m not gonna be able to do it. I usually adopt several kids here.
  • Speaker 10
    0:17:16

    They call it Angel Tree at my school. I picked one. I spent sixty dollars, and I got good deals, and I’m just calling it a day. I just have to be smarter.
  • Speaker 11
    0:17:24

    But we tried to vacation at least once a year. So we had one planned out for this coming year, and then we had a family member that’s getting married, but they’re getting married in Disney World and they want my girls to be in the wedding, which is beautiful and wonderful, but now I have to pay for Disney World Vacation on top of everything else. And it’s just the prices for flights, the prices for tickets and stuff like that. Like, even when you do try to cut back. I mean, like, life happens.
  • Speaker 11
    0:17:51

    And then when you do try to, like, splurge or do something, like, those prices are even so much more expensive than what they used to be at two.
  • Speaker 12
    0:17:59

    Around Christmas time. I usually drive my parents. I drive them down to see their extended family. Very far south Indiana. Basically, it’s Kentucky.
  • Speaker 12
    0:18:09

    They they basically live right on the border. We just can’t do it this year. Everything is just too expensive, and they have a significantly smaller place. They’re they’re thinking of, bringing the people from down south up to us, but I honestly, I just don’t know if that would work it. My parents have just such a smaller house.
  • Speaker 12
    0:18:29

    We might just, you know, do a Zoom call this year.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:31

    We set a a budget for Christmas, break it down by each grandchild and each daughter, trying to keep my wife in that budget as the as a business anxiety I have, Oh, this year, she’s done pretty well. So a little bit more focused on it this year because things are so tight.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:46

    So here is part of my pushback to your mass delusion theory. People talked about a ton of behaviors that they were changing. And this is actually one of the things I hear in the focus groups all people talk about things they specifically do differently. They drive less or they don’t take this trip or they don’t do this. And I think some of these are captured by some of the economic indicators.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:07

    Like, one of the things you hear from people who own small businesses are, like, things that they don’t update, or you hear from parents who had a baby who wanna upgrade on a house but feel like they can’t because of the interest levels. And so how do you I guess grapple with actually having to make different choices because they feel the actual weight of the economy on them in that way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:29

    I would be hard pressed to believe that there is a moment in any middle class family’s life when they are not making hard choices about spending. This idea that, like, people weren’t, like, tightening their belts over this or, like, thinking about can we do two vacations We do one vacation ten years ago. It was like, no. This is what it means to be a middle class family in America. Do you think it’s hard to buy a house starting out now?
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:56

    It’s almost always hard to buy a house starting out. It wasn’t during the dot com bubble. We live in a very, very difficult red, and tooth, and claw economic environment. And there is, like, a brief window in your mid fifties after your kids have left the house before you go on a fixed income where you can have some breathing space. But it’s always hard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:15

    So I don’t mean to say, like, oh, you know, pull up your big girl pants. Like, it’s easy. It’s not. I just don’t think it’s materially different. And I do have some questions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:24

    So from Ohio who’s the one who talked about the high costs of going to Disney World. Right? They’re still taking a big trip. He’s going to Disney World, and if the economy is so bad, how is his family affording a Disney wedding? Disney weddings are phenomenally expensive.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:39

    I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:40

    Can we get into because one of the people that I spent a lot of time looking at the things he said. Is that alright to do, or do you wanna
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:48

    Go ahead. You argue with the people, and I’m gonna rest my voice and eat chicken noodle soup.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:52

    Good. Good. Hello, America. Welcome to JBL’s complaining time. What I’ve wanted to do is burst through the the mirror on the focus group, like the kool Aid man and and argue back with him, but this is the next best thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:04

    So here’s something that from Ohio. He talked in another part of his focus group about he is a teacher at a juvenile detention center. He says, I’m seeing kids that are murdering other kids. That are coming in and then getting out within six to eight months. So when I heard this, my head snapped back, and I thought, That sounds really bad.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:28

    Is that true? And so I started doing some digging on how, you know, juvenile offenses work in Ohio. And it turns out that in Ohio, they have very strict sentencing guidelines for minors who commit murder if you are over the age of fourteen, you have a mandatory s y o. That means severe youth offender penalty system, which kicks in. You have to do the first part of your sentence and juvenile detention until you’re twenty one, and then the rest of it moves into the adult pokey when you’re finished.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:57

    If you’re under fourteen, there is some discretion with the judge as to whether or not you get an SIO or not, but it still is incredibly rare for anybody to wind up out of juvenile detention before the age of twenty one for murder. That’s the question of how many murders there are in Ohio. We’re looking at about thirty juvenile murders per year. I really wonder if it is true the has seen multiple minors who have committed murder getting out of his juvenile detention center in six to eight months. That just seems highly unlikely to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:32

    And so, you know, like, I don’t need to be sitting here, like, Matlock impeaching the witness.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:37

    Are you sure?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:38

    But if this guy is telling you This story about things he sees in his work life that could not possibly be true or at least seem highly unlikely. Given what we know about the actual laws in Ohio and the number of murders committed by juveniles in Ohio, then how much can you really trust when he says, oh, yeah, and things are terrible, there was a huge stupid, you know, social media fight about the price of hamburgers. Like, a week ago. Somebody on TikTok was like, I just paid sixteen dollars for, happy meal or something. And then two people from the Washington Post tried debunking it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:15

    And Nate Silver comes in and piles on. And Nate says, yeah. I mean, the real problem is that Uber Eats have gotten more expensive. And that, you know, Uber Eats and GrubHub now charge all sorts of extra fees. And so getting your burger from The McDonald’s two blocks away from your apartment now costs like twenty five dollars when it used to cost like twelve dollars.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:40

    So what is that story about? That is a story about people’s changing consumption habits. Right? They’re not just buying fast food. They’re using delivery services now, which they didn’t do five years ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:50

    And the delivery companies, because of the abandonment of the zero interest rate policy, zirp, which made all sorts of, like, weird manias possible in the tech world and allowed companies to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter because they were scaling up. And now these companies have to, like, make money so they’re charging more for their services. What I’m saying is consumption habits change. And I absolutely buy that people, you know, say, well, this other thing that I used to do costs more and nothing has changed, but I suspect they’re probably using Uber Eats more than they did five years ago because it didn’t exist. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:26

    And because the pandemic got people used to it. Right? Which is, by the way, a big part of my also theory of why people feel the way they do. I think people had more money during the pandemic because they didn’t go anywhere Yeah. Also, they were sending out stimulus checks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:40

    And I think people just felt more flush than they do today. And I also think that that blip of two years of not spending money caused both as prices did rise with inflation caused kind of a shock to people’s systems, then when they, like, got back in the travel game and it was all more expensive and fuel costs were more expensive. They hadn’t gradually gone up in their minds. It was just a shock to the system.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:02

    And a lot of people were out of work during the pandemic. Right? In unemployment spiked, got really, really high, and it came back down quickly. That’s what I’m saying. Again, the answer isn’t like everything’s amazing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:13

    Why aren’t you people smiling? It is like things are pretty good compared to the very recent past Both in twenty twenty when things were terrible. And in two thousand eight, when things were positively scary, things are amazingly good. And yet people feel as though things are worse today than they were either in twenty twenty when the pandemic was crushing the economy or in two thousand eight, two thousand nine during the great recession. That’s the disconnect.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:45

    Okay. Since you just brought up the hamburgers at McDonald’s. I’ve got some sound on food because I think one of the biggest ways that people talk about getting pinched in their daily lives is the cost food. And I’ll just note every clip you’re gonna hear from here on out is just a variety of political parties because they all basically sound the same.
  • Speaker 13
    0:26:03

    Where it really is hard is when you go to the grocery store or you take your family out to eat and just going to, let’s say, McDonald’s for a quick twenty dollar lunch, three or four years ago, is now, you know, forty dollars or fifty bucks for fast food. So it’s really challenging.
  • Speaker 14
    0:26:24

    And we’re a family of five. I used to be able to go to the store. Spend a hundred and fifty dollars, and that would get us for a good two ish weeks. And I’m a bargain shopper. Shop at Aldi, shop the sales, and Now, I spend a hundred and fifty dollars at the grocery store, and it’s, like, if I need, like, proteins, you know, it was half of what were your word getting.
  • Speaker 15
    0:26:50

    I tell you what, like, when Trump was president, we used to be able to buy food, and eat and eat. I mean, we’re living like vegetarians now where we can barely afford any thing anymore. I mean, I have to work six nights a week just to keep going. And it’s just it’s bad. I’ve never seen it this bad actually.
  • Speaker 16
    0:27:12

    You go to the store wherever you go shopping and you get like three bags of groceries, like, eighty dollars. Mhmm. And I take out like four items You know what I mean? It’s like vegetables and chicken. It’s like you see other countries and they have the healthiest products.
  • Speaker 16
    0:27:25

    We have the crappiest products in our foods. And yet for us to eat healthy, we have to pay triple the price.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:32

    That was food. And then I wanna do the other one that I hear a lot for why people want Trump back. Which is gas prices, which they remember as being considerably lower during Trump’s presidency. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 12
    0:27:45

    I paid three dollars and nineteen cents for gas and thought I got a bargain.
  • Speaker 17
    0:27:49

    Do I wanna go visit my friend in Savannah this weekend? Oh, wait. No. I can’t. I don’t have a hundred dollars for gas.
  • Speaker 17
    0:27:55

    And I’m sorry. Bulwark very, very hard. Sometimes doing three jobs,
  • Speaker 18
    0:28:00

    I paid four fifty five for gasoline this weekend. I go into the grocery store, Jeremiah seven dollars. People pay attention to that. Things were running pretty good in this country when truck was in. I don’t care whether you like them or not.
  • Speaker 18
    0:28:12

    You don’t have to marry them. Let’s go what’s best for the country.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:15

    I, recently had my car serviced, and my mechanic came back and said he really ought to, change his spark gloves. And I said, okay. Well, how much is that? He goes nine hundred dollars. I said, six spark plugs are nine hundred dollars.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:27

    I’ll look for another mechanic. Thank you very much.
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:30

    We used to be energy independent, and now we’re not. And they’re shutting down pipelines and and all that stuff, and it just irritates me.
  • Speaker 11
    0:28:41

    The gas prices are astronomical. If you have to buy a car, it’s ridiculous. We unfortunately had to buy two cars this year. And a used car price now is ten thousand dollars above what it was three years ago.
  • Speaker 19
    0:28:54

    They’re making up all these charges to Oh, your gas really isn’t near four dollars a gallon and under Trump as two dollars or, oh, your home prices are four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, but ten percent interest, but we don’t want you to look at all these things that impact you. We want you, oh, Trump is gonna be put in prison.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:13

    No. Oh, I have so many things to say. Can you see me vibrating?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:18

    I know. But you wanna, like, wanna argue the facts with them. Know you wanna do it. I will just say, I can’t say whether this guy is right about his nine hundred dollar spark plugs. Like, I can’t fact check.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:29

    My point is that it doesn’t matter. But you go ahead and argue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:35

    No. It doesn’t matter. This is the point. But it does matter I think in the sense of, like, are we trying to understand? Is this delusionary or is it real?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:46

    That answer dictates how we approach persuading people. Right? So who talked about his nine hundred dollar spark vlogs, Let’s pretend he owns a Ford f one fifty, one of the most popular vehicles in America. In America, the average cost to replace spark plugs on a Ford f one fifty between two hundred fifty and three hundred dollars, including parts and labor, not counting state and local taxes. I’m not gonna say that mechanic did not offered to charge him nine hundred dollars for a two hundred fifty to three hundred dollar repair.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:14

    But if he did, that’s a mechanic problem being dishonest. Not a cost of spark plugs problem. Saying that she had less than half of what she used to be able to get at the grocery store. That’s not possible. So much research has been done on the inflation and grocery prices, and they have gone up a lot.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:31

    They’ve gone up twenty five percent. In order to get half of what you used to get, then prices would have to go up one hundred percent. When prices go up twenty five percent, you get eighty percent of the same goods you used to get. Again, just people are unreliable narrators. But the one that I love the most was the we used to be energy independent, and now we’re not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:54

    So energy independence is like a slippery thing. Like, most people when they talk about that, they mean importing oil. Right? America has been importing oil since nineteen fifty. We have not been energy independent on petroleum since nineteen fifty.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:07

    It’s not like, you know, back when Cheeto Jesus was in office, like, we got all of our oil from the ground in Dejas. I think there’s, like, a slightly more complicated sense in which some economists measure, like, net energy production and usage in the US. And in that sense, here’s, like, a germ of truth. So maybe she read this in, like, the epoch times or something. Under Trump, for the first time, we became net energy positive in the US in twenty nineteen, which is really great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:38

    The thing is that our net energy positive status has continued to increase each year since twenty nineteen. And in fact, in twenty twenty two reached the highest mark ever under Joe Biden. And also if you care about their oil stuff, we are currently in the highest levels of domestic oil production in America’s history. So here’s somebody saying like, oh, we’re shutting down pipelines and, like, what what is that what is that related to? I’m sure part of it is, like, misinformation because they’re listening to Fox and stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:11

    But the point of this isn’t to, like, yell, you bad people you’re wrong. Why aren’t you smarter? It’s to understand again, What’s going on? Is there really a problem with policy levers to fix, or is this a vibes problem, which then is know, it’s really more about messaging and comms.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:27

    I wanna have the conversation about comms because if it is just a vibes problem, they have much more control over whether or not can fix their communications problem than whether or not they can fix an economy that’s failing. I know you did a lot of research. You could come back at these people with the things that they said about what they believed, Like, take the twenty five percent in the grocery store. Okay. So in aggregate prices have gone up twenty five percent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:47

    Because the things that have gone up the most are things like bread eggs, things like staples. And so, like, this is one of my frustrations with you. As you go and take whatever the Wall Street journal or the Fed or somebody else, and you take the aggregate numbers and you don’t think Okay. Well, that might be true across every single grocery product because lots of them have either gotten cheaper or stayed the same or whatever. If people are just trying to go to the grocery store and they’re trying to get salad stuff, vegetables, chicken, like, all of those things have gotten way more expensive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:16

    And I will tell you what I was struck by when she was talking about the food, which is She said eighty dollars, and my whole foods in Washington DC brain went, oh my god. You can get three bags of groceries for eighty dollars. That sounds like so much. At Whole Foods in Washington, DC, you can get half a bag of groceries for eighty dollars, and you got some cheese. This is one of my big things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:37

    I do think that people who live in the suburbs and in the cities experience a very different economy than somebody who is shopping at Aldi and has been shopping at Aldi for a family of five and is living on somewhere between a minimum wage and, like, a lower class salary. And that the employment numbers today are different than the employment numbers were twenty years ago because it includes a whole bunch of, like, gig jobs and not full time jobs that give them any kind of health insurance. And I don’t wanna sound like a live here, My point is
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:11

    I think there are ways for both things to be true that your numbers are true and that the experience these people are having is also true. Sure. Look, this is America, and, you know, I’m the commie here. Even when things are booming, all the indicators are pointing the same direction, There are always people who are gonna be a little worse off than they were before. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:32

    Like, our economy has winners and losers in it. That’s the system we all live in. So I’m not ever gonna say, like, you know, oh, everybody’s better. That’s never true. I’m sure there are many, many people, some large percentage of people for whom things aren’t.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:46

    But again, that’s not what the consumer attitudes show. Right? We just know for a fact that household wealth and median households adjusted for over the last three years is up thirty seven percent. That’s just a fact. And what we see in the consumer sentiment, sorry, raised, is that the vast majority of people don’t recognize that, and they think they’re worse off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:12

    So where do vibes come from? My contention is it’s more lived experience than, I think, sort of, you Grant, but I also agree that there are vibes elements to this. And I think part of that comes from the fact that for a long time, all the headlines were were gonna go into a recession. And now if you ask voters And this is what I call high level narrative setting. So part of what happens is when everyone’s like, oh my god, we’re gonna go into recession.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:38

    And then what happened is we, like, slowly methodically, like, jobs report by GDP growth report moved out of, like, red zone territory for entering a recession. Those are one day stories. They’re kinda like these one day stories of Oh, look, actually job growth exceeded expectations again. Inflation is not down, but it is cooling. You know, what
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:01

    It was flat over the last month.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:03

    But which just means it’s not going up though. It’s at a very high level. And so what you need is for it to come down.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:09

    No. No. No. You don’t want deflation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:11

    Well, so here’s problem though. So this is I mean, now we’re in an economic argument, right, where, like, what do they do about the actual economy? Because, actually, the economy is so hot. The reason that interest rates are so high is actually an attempt by the government to cool the economy. They are trying to repress the economy
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:29

    and it seems to have worked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:31

    And it seems to have worked. But with that, because they are actually trying to cool down the economy, why would you not accept the fact that the economy is in fact cooling and in a tough place. I understand. You’re making the point that it is. It’s just not as bad as people sound when they’re catastrophizing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:47

    Yeah. This is the the mythical soft landing that every economist dreams of. This is a very clear, like, where you and I both come from difference, you look at this and think that this is a case of people getting information because you come from comms. Right? And so the information is shaping them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:05

    I think the answer is probably even simpler. I think the answer is probably the COVID broke people’s brains. We went through this once in a century global pandemic, which changed how every single person in America lived their life, in an hour by hour day by day way for, like, two years. We had a million Americans die One million Americans die of this thing. One out of every three hundred people in America died.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:33

    And yet, we’ve sort of weirdly memory hold it. It’s like, oh, the thing we don’t talk about. There was, like, a headline somewhere about, oh, these gen zers are all germophobes. This isn’t, you know, new study shows that fifteen to twenty five year olds are obsessed with germs. They’re like, yeah, no shit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:49

    Why would that be? Yep. You know, did they all just undergo being locked inside their houses for two years? Because of a novel virus, which killed a million of their fellow citizens. Of course, like, it just that seems to me like the Aachen’s razor explanation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:01

    So I agree. I mean, I think that COVID actually can explain a lot of the perception differences. A hundred percent. I agree with that. Here’s the thing, though, for me, it’s not just For me, it’s lived experience.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:13

    Right? If I wasn’t listening to these voters all the time, I would kind of have a different perspective. I just hear it too often. It would be easy for me. I think if I wasn’t listening to them to say, This is a lot of Fox News.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:23

    This is a lot of catastrophizing for Republicans to make Joe Biden look bad or because they genuinely think Joe Biden is doing bad things to the economy, but it doesn’t comport with reality. Whereas, I just hear it so often and from so many different types of people. And I don’t mean often. I mean, like, number one thing all the time, everybody says it. I just will not doubt that level of people articulated.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:42

    I I listened to your show. It’s the literally the first thing that every group regardless of their political ID says to you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:48

    Exactly. And so, like, for me, I’m just like, this is real. And then I start to think, okay. When it’s real, what do you do about it? So one is, obviously, the economy needs to go from soft landing from worst outcome to, like, actively good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:02

    There has to be, like, an active improvement. Inflation does need to come down in the places that are the basics, because that’s the thing you hear about the most. It’s gas, it’s eggs, it’s milk, it’s chicken. It’s, like, the most basic things, those prices have to come down because I think that’s what’s really hurting people. And also, like, Joe Biden’s doing responsible things with the economy whereas Donald Trump ran the economy really hot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:22

    Like, there was a lot of sugar highs in the Trump economy. They borrow a lot of money. They cut taxes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:27

    Raise the debt and raise the bid administration hasn’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:29

    Yeah. That’s right. But here’s where I get to vibes in the comms part. I just think there are marginal ways in which they could do a much better job of articulating, I mean, literally everything that’s happening. But, like, one of the things that is so weird to me and I’m interested in what you think, calling it bidenomics to me was, like, a real premature weird branding situation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:53

    Like, what makes somebody be like, you know, the vast majority of voters believe that the economy is not doing Will Saletan slap Biden’s name on it. Like, you do that with popular things. You do that once you’ve won the argument. And so I think that by calling it Biden, And just running around saying bidenomics is working, I think they’ve painted themselves into a really tough spot when voters are, like, actually, I think the economy sucks, and so now I blame Biden because his name’s on it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:17

    I heard you say this on the last show, and this is a rare moment where I think I disagree with you on something regarding communications. This strikes me as like the age thing, like the Kamala Harris thing, because it’s a real vulnerability, the answer is put a lantern on it. And hug it until you change people’s minds so that then you own it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:40

    I think they should work to change people’s minds. I actually think Democrats are far too timid in trying to create their own reality. So I come from a Republican comms background. I’ve watched Republicans operate now for most of my career. And let me tell you what Republicans do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:54

    They create their own reality. They create their own echo chambers. And one of the things that Trump did early on in his administration was He would run around. I also say this all the time, and he would be like, hey, best economy for black people, best economy for women. Hey, buddy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:08

    How’s your four zero one k on every shop floor? Right? And then every other Republican would repeat it. He just said this list that he would run down all the time. And I do think that that created vibes, and it created a broad high level narrative of an idea that things were good and working.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:28

    Now I also think economic numbers were better. They had more to work with, and they were talking about things like tax cuts and everything, and they avoided pulling out of Obamacare, which I think actually would have done a great deal of damage to Trump’s presidency on just, like, pure policy grounds. But, like, they don’t have like a strong person to communicate this stuff, which is to go out and say, we were heading into a recession which Trump drove us into because of COVID because he mishandled the whole thing. Millions of people died. The economy was in the toilet, and I have been climbing us out of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:59

    That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been having to painstakingly dig us out of his mess, and nobody makes that case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:04

    It’d be nice to have, like, two thousand and eight Arab Bill Clinton on this, wouldn’t it?
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:08

    Yeah. Rahamanuall just like a bunch of attack dogs out there being like you did this, bro.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:12

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:13

    And yet, they let it persist.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:14

    I agree with them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:16

    They just let it hang there as a truism, which is to me why there is, on one hand, a lot of lived experience that I don’t think there’s you can counter. On the other hand, I think that it has become such truism for all people that even the people who are doing quite well by comparison, who’ve just decided the economy’s bad, even though they personally are doing quite well. And a lot of those people are the college educated, suburban voters that voted for Biden last time that are now saying they’re backsliding to Trump because of the economy And those are the people that they’ve gotta get out there with Bullhorn in their ear being like, you are doing quite well. And Donald Trump put us in this position, and we fixed it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:50

    Also, things are Just objectively better. Right? How’s your four zero one k? On election day twenty twenty, the Dow Jones average is twenty eight thousand. Today, we’re thirty three thousand.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:58

    Right? On election day unemployment was at six point seven percent. Today, we’re at three point eight percent. You know, hey, you have a job. You have a job.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:05

    You have a job. Your four one k is doing great, isn’t it? I think these are easy things to do, but they’re only easy if people are receptive to rational argument. That’s where I start to worry. Some of the people in the focus group, there’s one of your Trump two time voters who is talking about how terrible things are now relative to twenty twenty two.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:24

    Yeah. You know, last year things were fine, but this year things are terrible. And I bet if you go back to twenty two, that that same voter would have told you, Oh, yeah. Things are terrible this year. Last year, they were much better.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:35

    Right? Now twenty twenty one was a very good year. I think everybody’s happy about things in twenty twenty one because we were still lining the sugar high and hadn’t hadn’t come back to reality yet. But I do wonder how receptive people are to rational argument on this and how much is we’re all disconnected from reality and we think that everything will basically be fine no matter what we choose
  • Speaker 3
    0:43:53

    and that, you know, if
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:53

    we go with the who attempted a coup again, like, whatever. Like, it was fine ultimately anyway, and this will be fine too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:05

    That’s not all they think though. They think this guy’s a business man. This guy had a good economy last time. He didn’t. He didn’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:10

    I’m just I’m telling you what people think.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:11

    I ask you to explain something to me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:13

    Well, okay. But I really wanna hear them talk about housing. But go ahead. What do you want me explain to you?
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:17

    So housing I’m here for because this is, like, the one economic complaint, which is absolutely real and valid, and there’s there’s lots to talk about. What I don’t understand America is we famously say, that’s great what you did in the past, but what have you done for me lately?
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:31

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:32

    Right? It doesn’t matter that you won a Super Bowl two years ago. Last season, your team was, six and ten. So you’re out of here, coach. Why is it that Donald Trump is the guy who everybody looks at and says, well, sure, the last eighteen months of his presidency were absolute disaster.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:51

    But look how good things were before then. In no other walk of life, in no other piece of politics, does anybody evaluate people that way? Everything is always yeah. But how were things when you walked out the door?
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:02

    I don’t think so.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:03

    And this idea that people just go, like, oh, shit. Trump was great though for those first two and a half years before that nasty COVID thing happened. So we could just give them a pass and try it again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:12

    That is what they think though. If they think COVID.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:15

    Why is that for him and for nobody else?
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:16

    I absolutely think COVID was exogenous. They she had happened in every other country.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:20

    This is exogenous. America has the lowest inflation rate of any g seven countries. This is what we do in
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:24

    the secret podcast. We just yell at each other and talk about breaches. No. There I I agree with you that there’s this asymmetric judgment there’s just no doubt people look at COVID as this, like, meteor that came out of the sky differential. And so they do not judge a lot of things that Trump did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:40

    And what’s weird about that is we were living in COVID. And so he got sort of forgiven in a way that it’s like a like a flood or some other catastrophe. The aftermath of Joe Biden having to clean it up, which has been sort of painstaking and hard and piecemeal, because we’re not living in COVID anymore. People have this unrealistic expectation that everything would just bounce back super fast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:01

    Yeah. It’s his flop for beating COVID so that we don’t have to, like, live in our basements anymore.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:06

    Yeah. And in twenty twenty two, people were down on the economy, but it was, like, for different reasons. What people were talking about then was the supply chain.
  • Speaker 11
    0:46:13

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:13

    And the fact that, like, they couldn’t find anything. They didn’t have anything. Nobody was there to serve them at restaurants. It was like we were opening back up, but life was still different and people were frustrated with that. All the flights being canceled.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:24

    I remember how people were in twenty twenty two. Similarly negative just like slightly different reasons. Okay. Let’s do housing because this is like another one that you just hear all the time especially with young voters. We’ve got another episode with Peter Hamby.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:36

    And one of the things they talk about in that episode is just the just impossibility of getting into the housing market. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 20
    0:46:45

    Well, the rent is horrible. I don’t rent, but I feel really bad for people who do rent. But people who have a mortgage insurance when a car insurance, but everything’s going up, the price of a used car is gone. So financially, it’s devastating.
  • Speaker 21
    0:46:59

    I keep seeing that, inflation is decreasing, but I won’t speak for anybody else, but it may be decreasing, but I don’t see my dollar going any farther gas prices are rising again. Just basic everyday living costs are are outrageous at this point. Mortgage rates, an example, I I don’t know how anybody’s going and getting new houses with seven, eight percent rates. But unfortunately, I locked mine in it two and a half years ago, and I can’t imagine going, you know, up that seven, eight percent right now.
  • Speaker 22
    0:47:29

    The idea I think for gen z or or younger people, the idea of owning a home seems really far fetched now. It seems like something that’s gonna be just very, very difficult to do. You almost would have to calculate some sort of crash or, you know, you have to start making a lot of money and things like that. And for everyone that I know around me, all the people that I know around me that do own a home or, like, you know, have a mortgage and are buying a home. They got a large amount of assistance being from, like, family members, you know, covering their down payment, things like that.
  • Speaker 22
    0:47:57

    I think
  • Speaker 5
    0:47:57

    I’m the oldest year, but I feel like nobody our age is not gonna get a house for a while. You’re probably not gonna retire, and that is, like, really grim outlook.
  • Speaker 23
    0:48:05

    When Trump was in office, that kinda gives a glimmer of hope to me because I’m hoping to look to potentially buy a house soon. And like I mentioned earlier with, like, just everything just skyrocket in price. Like, to before the average house in Arizona, you need to be making, like, a hundred hundred, hundred fifty plus a year. And it’s it’s kinda ridiculous. So, hopefully, a change like that would, you know, be for the better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:31

    Okay. So recently, there was a Wall Street Journal poll that said that only thirty six percent of Americans thought that the American dream was in reach, which was down from fifty three percent. In twenty twelve when the economy was actually a lot worse. And so I think part of my concern about the way that people talk about the economy is it’s not just the economy as they experience it right now, it’s that there’s this longer term sort of deeper sense of despair setting in and people don’t feel like they have upward mobility or the ability to achieve things. And so the thing that I’m hearing is that because people have this sort of to spare over the long term.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:09

    They think if you bring Trump back, the economy could get better again. They’re willing to overlook all kinds of things to make the economy better. What do you make of that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:18

    Congratulations, America. You now see the world exactly as every member of the gen x generation has seen it their entire lives. Everything is stacked against you. It’s impossible to buy a home. You’re never gonna retire.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:30

    Don’t even count on social security being in existence when you do hit seventy. This is how people of my age cohort have lived through their entire adulthood. Right? You know, I I came out of college into a recession, not as bad as the one that people who graduated in, like, two thousand eight, two thousand nine came into. These things are all timing based.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:51

    The baby boomers won the lottery. This is I don’t know if you listened to Tim’s conversation with Scott Galloway, but he talked about how being born in California in the year that he was as a white guy meant that he got to go to a world class university for, like, five bucks and a bag of beans, and then come out into an incredibly hot job market, into an incredibly undervalued real estate market while we were in the midst of building tons of homes. And that, like, dictated everything in his life. And that is basically where we are now. The housing stuff is real.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:25

    The case show or index on housing affordability is at the worst mark that I think it’s ever been in, but also it hasn’t been great for a long time. Like, I talked about, like, you know, maybe it’ll be better when Trump comes back. In quarter four twenty sixteen, the time of this two thousand sixteen election, the median home price was three hundred eleven thousand. By the time Trump left office, it was three hundred seventy thousand. This is again adjusted for inflation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:47

    So these things were rising then too. Housing prices are not a function of the federal government. There is an interest rate component into it, which is the fed. The rest of it is about building more homes. And this is a thing which is of enormous interest to all sorts of, like, new urbanists and and planners.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:10

    They want more housing to be built. The problem is that we’ve seen often when you get more housing being built, you get luxury housing being built. Which can help a little bit. Right? Any number of housing units you put onto the market decreases the pressure on prices in the market total.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:27

    But if all you’re doing is building a high, high end luxury where, you know, people are buying these units and trading them as advantageous, it’s not putting all that much pressure on it. So housing reform, absolutely something that needs to be tackled, especially at state and local levels. And it’s a big part of everything. Right? We have a homeless crisis in the way that they don’t in, like, the Scandinavian countries.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:49

    Why is that? It’s because they build housing But this is the one thing where I have total sympathy for everybody who says it feels like I’ll never be able to afford a house.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:57

    Okay. I just wanna get through one more thing, because there’s one more area we haven’t really touched on that people talk about a lot in the groups, which is their work lives. You’ll notice that a lot of people we’re talking to are not cushy sort of six figure jobs, but they do, you know, tough, often underpaid stuff. So let’s listen to how they talk about their wages and staffing shortages.
  • Speaker 24
    0:52:20

    I’m in hospitality, and it’s tough around here with the economy. And in my local area, they’ve just really raised property taxes. So that has everybody upset in our city because income hasn’t gone up. And then since the exodus of workers in twenty twenty, we still can’t find workers. So if you’re trying to run a business, you’re having to pay a lot more.
  • Speaker 24
    0:52:47

    We’re hiring staffing services. So I’m not that optimistic. I don’t see how it can be fixed yet.
  • Speaker 5
    0:52:55

    Like my fiancee, he is on track to make a thousand dollars less than he did last year, which was the same as the year before. I think a lot of people didn’t get raises or you know, quality of life raises the past couple of years.
  • Speaker 25
    0:53:08

    My friend, you know, he just finished a firefighting academy, and he’s don’t really understand it. You know, I go through all this pressure, all this money that I had to spend in on equipment. And we’re only making sixty thousand. You know, that really hasn’t changed. And that’s South Florida too.
  • Speaker 25
    0:53:23

    So it’s it should be, like, you know, higher than the average compared to, like, small cities. And this always has more issues for what they have to do. And he’s like, they really haven’t changed the costs, for inflation
  • Speaker 26
    0:53:37

    I work at a big, huge hospital, and we’re short staffed. We’re working more than sixteen hours a day. You know, six days a week, but then we hire people. They come in for one day, and then they no call no show the rest of the time. It’s, like, people don’t wanna work, but they wanna stand out.
  • Speaker 26
    0:53:56

    And on the street corner with their signs, it says, please help. Well, We all need the help, but nobody’s willing to come in and work for it. They just want a handout.
  • Speaker 1
    0:54:08

    Okay. So You can’t talk directly to these voters, which is a good thing and by design because I don’t want you to. But let me ask you this just as we kinda wrap up here. You are in my fundamental debate over whether it’s a delusion, whether it’s true lived experience, whether there’s a gap, the economy is actually improving, but it’s not making a meaningful enough difference in, like, the basic things that people need. All of that is just sort of you and I talking.
  • Speaker 1
    0:54:34

    Because I think at the end of the day, we can both agree. If people think the economy is in a really bad place, a new throw immigration on top of it, which has implications for the way people talk about crime, which is sort of two of the other big issues that I would say you really hear on the right and where Biden seems to be really vulnerable based on every single poll we’ve seen about where people’s attitudes are about who they think is best equipped to handle those issues. What are they supposed to do over the next year to get themselves into a better place?
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:04

    Boy, I wish I knew. If I had that answer, I would have written a really, really great newsletter about it that you would have read eventually. I think the answer is probably that they have to disqualify Trump. And you have to disqualify him both on economics, about and remind people of what things looked like when Trump left and on the chaos stuff and the instability because people don’t like chaos and instability. And with that, you gotta hope that all the economic indicators stay where they are, which is a guarantee.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:38

    Get better.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:38

    Well, it’d be great if they got a little bit better, although I’m not sure people would admit to it if they did. But look, all the indicators suggest that we’re in the middle of a soft landing, but that could change. Why do we think things couldn’t get worse? Things could go bad. We could wind up in an actual recession.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:53

    That’s possible. If that happens, none of this matters. If we get into an actual recession, then Biden will lose full stop. There won’t be anything he can do about it. So I think that we are in a place where our level of agency is not nearly as high as we would like it to be.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:11

    We should all work. We should try to save democracy. The work you do is very important. But on the other hand, it won’t be sufficient. To save democracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:21

    Right? We’re gonna need help from events and need help from the economy, need help from Joe Biden, not falling, or having a health event himself. Again, I I’m sorry to do this, but I need to talk to these people one last time on the show. Okay. So the the woman from Ohio who’s in the hospitality industry, she’s complaining about them raising property taxes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:43

    She should take that up with her Republican governor, I assume. Not Joe Biden. And she says that we can’t find workers because you have to pay a lot more. And she also complains that incomes haven’t gone up. That doesn’t make sense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:56

    Right? If people have to pay workers more, then incomes are going up. And in fact, that is the reality that we’re seeing. Right? Incomes are up everywhere, but a especially at the lower end of the wage scale.
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:06

    People in the bottom twenty five percent of the wage scale have seen the biggest increases in gains and wages. But the other thing is that final woman from West Virginia, who says that she works at a big huge hospital, you know, we hire people and they come in for one day, and then they know call, no show. And the rest of the time is, like, people don’t wanna work, but they wanna stand out on the street corner with their signs. Her position stated by her is that people would rather be homeless and be beggars than show up to work at a health care sector job, and I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that. I just don’t believe that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:41

    I don’t believe that that is true. This is just her view of America, and I don’t know how anybody changes that. Because if Joe Biden, the guy who loves middle America, the guy who never attacks the magas, the guy who is, like, you know, Scranton Joe, the guy who is the most centrist and blue collar version of the Democratic party. If he can’t change that, then I don’t know what hope there is for it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:09

    This is where I sort of disagree with you is that I think they have quite a bit of agency here. That a lot of that is about the stories that you tell. And I think even if I take your premise that it is partly a mass delusion, you think that’s worse. I think that’s better because I think you can puncture mass delusions or at least You
  • Speaker 2
    0:58:27

    look at the My thesis and you take the domestic feel of it, you’re kidding.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:32

    That’s true. That’s par for the course. I don’t even think they’ve done one tenth of what they need to do. And I also think that part of it is they get nervous. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:41

    Cause they don’t wanna say, well, we don’t wanna argue against people’s lived experience. And so They say, so we’re gonna just tell people all the great things that we’ve done or whatever. A Republican would ever worry about arguing against people lived experience because here’s what they know. They know that people’s lived experiences are vast. Right now, there are some people who are having a much tougher time, and you don’t wanna tell them that position is wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:59:01

    But there’s a bunch of people who actually are doing well and are part of those metrics that show people doing well. And I did this rant before, so I’m not gonna do the whole thing again, but I think that going out and saying, we have made so much progress from the terrible economy that Trump left us in. Because of his mishandling of COVID, you have to remind them about COVID. You have to tell people people do forget. How things happened and why they occurred the way they do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:59:25

    And so they just blame the person in charge now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:59:28

    COVID wasn’t just during Trump. Like Biden’s whole first year was taken up COVID. Nobody remembers this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:59:33

    That’s right. And so, like, I think if we were talking to somebody in the White House Council’s office, they might be like, we’re gonna do that. We’re talking about the infrastructure money come into all these different places. I believe that if they were making a good sustained argument had hundreds of surrogates all over the place talking about the good economy. So something that happens though is that I think people get afraid to say, boy, me just tell you how bad things were because of what Trump did to COVID, how Joe Biden saved us.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:01

    Democrats, like, don’t wanna do that. And if they can’t get their backs up to go make an argument to people that things could have been a lot worse and that actually because of Joe Biden’s policies, they’re getting better. And, actually, we can have an optimistic future and actually they’re bringing jobs and manufacturing back because of the I mean, if they can’t find it to have an army of people out there arguing about this and, you know, you say people don’t like chaos, it’s true. But I think there is an upbeat, optimistic, aggressive contrast with Trump because he’s gonna take away their health care and he’s gonna cut taxes for the rich Only to give Democrats advice, but like the bread and butter politics of it all, I’m not sure I’ve seen people making any of those compelling cases. Not in a sustained way, not through a ton of surrogates, and that’s allowing this vibes thing to persist in the places where it may not be as real as in the other place.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:52

    Is where it’s real.
  • Speaker 2
    1:00:53

    So here is a genuine criticism that I’ll I’ll make it the the Biden Administration. I believe their campaign strategy was we’re gonna keep our powder dry, keep raising money. And we’re not gonna muddy the waters in the Republican primary because we’re gonna let the Republicans take out Trump. Yep. And I think that was a huge mistake and a very avoidable mistake.
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:16

    They should have understood that Republicans were never going to attack Trump. And what they’ve done instead, you know, what is your you have a a great saying about concrete. Right? It’s
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:25

    Public opinion is like cement.
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:27

    Yeah. The vibes have all congealed. So that even, you know, even Democrats just sort of go along with them. They should have been on offense very quickly and try to redefine the Trump presidency for people’s memories. And I don’t know if it’s too late or not.
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:41

    I hope it’s not, but they ought to give it the old college
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:44

    Yeah. Okay, buddy. Good show, very long focus group pod that would only happen with you. I appreciate you doing this. You’re the best.
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:55

    And thanks to all of you for listening to the Focus Group podcast. You are also the best. We’ve got one more show for you before holidays next week, and I hope you’ll find it a lighthearted way to wrap up the year. No doom and gloom. See you soon.
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