‘It’s the economy, stupid’: Pocketbook issues loom large ahead of US midterms

By Paula Escalada Medrano

Martinsburg, West Virginia, Oct 28 (EFE).- Not abortion restrictions, nor the war in Ukraine, nor the pandemic nor immigration.

With the United States’ inflation rate at nearly a 40-year high, American voters’ main concerns ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections are the economy and the elevated cost of living.

Indeed, a Politico-Morning Consult poll released last week says the state of the US economy – and in particular the sharp rise in consumer prices – will factor heavily into the ballot-box decisions of up to 80 percent of voters.

Millard Shafer, a farmer in Burkittsville, Maryland, an agricultural village with just over 100 inhabitants, told Efe that he is not a Democrat or a Republican but will vote with his wallet in the midterm elections, in which control of both houses of Congress is at stake.

On this occasion, that means casting his ballot for the Republican candidate for the US House of Representatives in that district, Neil Parrott, who is challenging Democratic incumbent David Trone.

Over the past two years (roughly coinciding with President Joe Biden’s time in the White House), the 38-year-old farmer said his business has suffered badly.

He is most concerned about higher diesel prices, which have been falling for the past four months yet still are up by 58.1 percent over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Shafer blames the Biden administration, saying it has placed too much focus on the battle against climate change and promoting electric vehicles and not enough on boosting US crude output.

He was referring to the president’s flagship $700 billion climate, health and tax package known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

That law names the problem most on the minds of voters like Garland Elliott, an apple farmer in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who says that although the price of that produce is much higher in the supermarket he is not seeing any boost to his own earnings.

In remarks to Efe, he says he is still a registered Democrat but now mainly votes Republican.

The Democrats are “not the party of the people anymore. There’s too many people that have been in government for so long. The working class cannot keep working to pay for a third of the rest of the people who are not working,” Elliott said in reference to US entitlement programs.

Suzanne Behrmann, owner of a small goat cheese farm in Martinsburg, says for her part that the winds are blowing in the Republicans’ favor but that she does not believe the GOP has any answer for the inflation problems now affecting the US economy.

“I will vote, but I’m more concerned about my local elections,” she said after giving Efe a tour of her farm.

Richard Roberts, an economics professor at New Jersey’s Monmouth University and former executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told Efe that the two weapons being used on the campaign trail both have to do with the economy.

While Democrats are touting a low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, Republicans are trying to direct voters’ attention to a high inflation rate of 8.2 percent, he said.

The tactic is tried and true and is perhaps best encapsulated in a phrase coined by James Carville, who in 1992 was a strategist for then-Democratic candidate Bill Clinton’s ultimately successful presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

With the country in a recession at that time, keeping the campaign’s focus on economic problems proved effective and enabled Clinton to beat out Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush and end the GOP’s 12-year White House run. EFE

pem/mc

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