Opinion: Amid economic complaints, Americans hit the road

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

In the aftermath of the Coronavirus outbreak, polls have consistently shown that Americans are unhappy with the course of the U.S. economy, even though unemployment remains at historically low levels.

For most of us, inflation — even as it has slowed down in recent months — was very real at the gas pump, in the grocery store, in restaurants, and in all areas of the economy.

No one wants to pay higher prices, and Republicans have dutifully tried to take advantage of that economic aggravation.

—“Americans are worse off than they were four years ago,” said U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.

A recent poll showed just 34 percent of Americans like the way that President Biden has been handling the economy — unimpressed by his talk about ‘Bidenomics.’

But if people are so unhappy, they aren’t demonstrating their anger by staying home. In the past year, I’ve traveled to 22 states, and the U.S. economy seems to be crackling.

The evidence was everywhere — a bustling candy store outlet in Indiana, jammed buses at the Grand Canyon, crowded tourist boats in Chicago, long lines at Niagara Falls, busy restaurants in New Mexico — Americans aren’t acting like the economy is going down the tubes.

U.S. travel and tourism groups expect this year to set a record, eclipsing numbers from 2019, before the Coronavirus outbreak.

A few months ago, there was all kinds of talk about a recession, as the Federal Reserve has repeatedly raised interest rates to cool the economy. But now there’s hope that can be avoided.

While Republicans have repeatedly attacked the economic policy choices of the White House, Georgia is in solid shape — with a jobless rate of just over 3 percent, and the state expecting a $5 billion revenue surplus this year.

“Georgia has a booming coastal economy,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler. But when it comes to President Biden, that’s a different story for the GOP.

“If you want to talk about fiscal irresponsibility, you only need to look at the White House,” Carter said earlier this year.

One other constant during my travels this summer was road construction — a sure sign of economic activity.

“For decades, policymakers allowed America’s infrastructure to deteriorate,” U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff told the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, as Democrats have spent this summer touting the recent infrastructure law.

I’m not trying to say the economy is perfect — just look at the recent jump in the price of gasoline — but maybe, judging from the crowded airports, restaurants, and packed hotels, maybe things aren’t as bad economically as the polls might suggest.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com