Taking the Politics Out of the Economy

Voters will be hearing a barrage of messages about the U.S. economy in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. Here’s the good news: The candidates both believe that it’s an important issue.

The bad news? That’s about all they have agreed on, and their plans veer in many different directions when it comes to creating jobs, promoting business investment and improving our nation’s fiscal health.

This is typical as we get closer to a presidential election, according to Gary Burtless, a senior fellow of economic studies at The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank. In a recent opinion piece, Burtless said that “alert voters everywhere realize the economy is neither as strong as claimed by the party in power nor the disaster described by the opposition.”

And yet, political turmoil and election-year propaganda can be quite influential on the minds of those casting ballots. This environment can also weigh heavily on business owners and HR professionals. Many of them will delay expansion or hiring plans due to “political uncertainty,” even though it can be argued that the real root of tepid job growth is lack of demand for services or products.

Is it possible to tune out the noise between now and November 8? Perhaps not entirely. Political rhetoric aside, for most of us, the bottom line on our nation’s economic well-being is “the rate of improvement in our family income” and how it is affected by changes in prices to consumer goods, Burtless said.

Recent federal data show that the country is heading in the right direction in that regard. Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 111.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $824 in the second quarter of 2016, not seasonally adjusted, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This was 2.9 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of just 1.1 percent in the consumer price index over the same period.