Most economists are convinced a recovery is underway. The problem for President Bush will be how many voters agree or, more specifically, how many are confident about their own and their nation's future. Signs of a U.S. decline in international competitiveness were abundant long before the recent recession got underway. Now concerns about the cohesiveness of American society as a result of the Los Angeles riots are likely to compound disappointment in the slow pace of the current uptick.
In political terms, the economy could be a wash in the November elections. Unemployment, now at 7.2 percent, may stay near that number until election day. Overall growth in gross domestic product is expected to be in the 2 percent range. The recovery, in other words, will be unusually weak but a recovery nonetheless and hardly an asset for likely Democratic nominee Bill Clinton.
Indeed, polls indicate that voters harbor at least as much doubt about how the Democrats would manage the economy as they do about the Republicans. Many who feel the recession is over think government has done a poor job. Given this lack of faith in the political establishment, Ross Perot's independent bid for the presidency as a take-charge entrepreneur could get a boost.