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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst


‘Inflation, inflation, inflation’: Americans debate economy’s health


Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst


As the U.S. economy continues to surpass predictions on everything from “blowout” GDP growth to record-low unemployment, liberals celebrate “Bidenomics” as a proven recipe for nationwide economic growth and success. Yet the costs of housing, living, and interest rates are also on the rise, prompting criticism and pessimism from both conservatives and the general public. So when it comes to the economy, are things getting better or worse?

In this 26-minute episode of America Speaks, Dr. Frank Luntz asks Americans how they feel about our economy, what sources they trust for economic news, and what the role of public policy is in responding to the broader economic needs of the American people.

For decades, Americans and politicians, and yes, there is a difference had been led to believe that nothing is more important than the economy. Joe Biden says the economy is strong. Republicans disagree. Joe Biden points to low unemployment, Republicans pointed historically high inflation. So how does one determine if the economy is healthy or not improving or not sustainable or not? I’m Dr. Frank Luntz here at America speaks, we decided not to ask the economist, as they have predicted 10 of the last three recessions. Instead, we went to you, the American people, how do you determine whether the economy is headed in the right direction, or whether things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track? With Black Friday and the holiday season only weeks away? I thought I would start with a conversation about consumer behavior. But it quickly became a discussion about inflation. Let’s listen. We’re weeks away from the beginning of the Thanksgiving Christmas holiday. And I want to know, based on where the economy is now, and based on what your own situation is now, do you expect to spend more money this year during the holidays? less money than you spent last year? Or about the same? So let’s first do a show of hands. Who thinks that they’re going to be spending more money this year on presidents on gifts in the holiday season? Raise your hands? I see 123 hands go up? Who thinks you’d be spending less money to share raise hands? 12345 of you and who’s about the same?


Almost everyone.


In the people, we’re going to be spending more money. Tell me why


don’t we get three out of the five of you? Why are you going to be spending more money this holiday season than you did last year?


I recently started a new job. And it pays better than my old job. So


that would be why throw more money in the bank account? Yes, prime prime prices are up. So going to shop for about the same amount of people same types of gifts. So you know, inflation is caused everything to go up. So if you buy the same amount, same things, or same types of things, it’s you know, it’s going to be X percent more expensive this year.




I can be facetious and say Biden omics.


But but your real answer is, my real answer is similar to Tom’s less money to go around. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you’re asking somebody else. That everything across the board. I know. They said like 3% 4% inflation. But when it didn’t cost double gas flights to see family. I just can’t afford it. I gotta be more frugal and how I spend money before.


Okay, who else is gonna spend less? I’m going to buy nomics truly is one of the big reasons. I’m also putting the money towards things that we may need when the economy crashes, because I know it’s going to hear at straight arrow news. You don’t just get one side of the argument. You get all sides. So I decided to ask our panel regardless of personal partisanship, whether they thought the economy was getting stronger or weaker. Even though we were talking to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, that consensus was almost unanimous. He just raised an important point, the economy, your minds, this is strong, the Republican states weak. I’m not asking you to tell me who you’re voting for. But I am asking you to tell me who’s Correct. Is the economy getting stronger? Is the economy getting weaker? Weaker hands, who’s just getting stronger and stronger? No.


One to certain segments? Who says it’s getting weaker?


Almost everybody. Okay. Anthony Weiss economy getting weaker?


Well, inflation has not been, you know, taken care of yet. And is there really any kind of plan? If there is it’s not clear to me? And I don’t think it’s clear to most people.


Yeah, the economy is definitely.


Deborah, the economy is getting weaker, it is weaker, it’s much weaker. Why? Inflation primarily


the cost of materials, lead times and employees. Absolutely every aspect of it has increased and to the point where projects cannot get off the ground interest rate has increased, which is adding a tremendous burden to project so people can’t work projects can’t be built or completed. Then people aren’t working and it’s it’s going to be a spiral.


Economy getting stronger or weaker.


So I said that it was getting weaker. I’m a small business owner, and we serve higher end clients. So people who have more expendable money, and we’ve even seen a bit of a retraction amongst them, I think that everyone’s starting to kind of pull in tight for fear of, you know, whether it’s realized or not. We’ve certainly seen a retraction within the business that I run. And so we’re feeling it, you know, employees business myself, personally. Couple more of you, Thomas, stronger or weaker. Now it’s weaker, and I’m a local government person, Dr. Lung, so whether it’s supply chain inflation, strategic reserves, with fuel buying has slowed down because of the interest rates. And this slide that popped into my head is that there’s very, very little margin for error when it comes to people spending. And people are spending money. And they’re very fearful about how things are going to play out with the economy. And unfortunately, the politics next year.


Eric, are you afraid? are you fearful for the economy?


Not fearful, but I’m worried that it’s weak and going to get weaker. I mean, I think what everyone else has touched on is true. I mean, the fundamentals and the actual math of the economy is a problem. But I think you’ve also seen how many people think it’s weak, it’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy as well. So people are going to save more they’re afraid to spend, which is in turn going to make things worse. So I think you’re almost caught in a bit of a tautological cycle, to where the economy is going to be negative, mainly because people think it’s going to and then you match that with some of the fundamentals in the economy, we’ve seen, it’s gonna get worse. We’ve got 18 people on this zoom from 14 different states. And most of you think it’s getting weak, and we got him from the northeast, from the south from the west. James, I saw you nodding your head. Why do you agree with what Eric had to say,


um, as a as a retiree, you could say I’d have a fixed income, but I still need to take care of the necessities. But I see my


investments may be not as bad as in 22. I see stock values going down. Oil prices is what I need to buy go up.


And I hear the news every day about, we are now in such huge national debt. That that is not we’re printing money we do not have. And that’s not going to bring inflation down. It’s going to keep it’s going to stay high. Since everyone wants to know whom the public believes when it comes to the economy, and whom the public blames for economic conditions. America speaks decided to ask them, their answers may surprise you. Joe Biden says it’s a good economy. Republicans say it’s a bad economy. How do you know? Which is which? And one way you can tell is it every single month, they’ve had to go back and readjust the numbers because they were lying the first time. You can see it, whenever you see your expenses every month, you can see it in business, you can see it in absolutely everything you do, they can tell us that it’s glorious, and it’s wonderful. But if we want to be liked to we can go to a bar, we don’t need this from the government.


Or man.


How do you know what’s the number you go to? Gas prices, inflation, interest rates, homebuying supply chain and whether my taxpayers can pay their taxes and utility fees?


Okay, that’s a whole lot of numbers, if you just had one.


I’m gonna say in inflation,




the ability of consumers to purchase goods and services drives the economy. So if inflation causes them to second guess, their purchases, it has a ripple effect throughout the economy. Debbie adding up the economy’s good or bad.


Prices on not only utilities, but also everyday goods.


And why is that an indicator for you? It’s interesting, that’s something that cost me and I’m making this up 599 A couple of years ago cost me 1099. Now, obviously, there’s a big disparity. So you’re telling me that that’s a better indicator than unemployment numbers. I thought unemployment went down.


Isn’t that? Yeah, exactly. So I’m asking you. What numbers do you look at? How do you tell if it’s a good economy? You told me it’s inflation, not unemployment.


Yeah, I would say inflation.


How do you know whether it’s a good economy? I look at several things I look at. I look at inflation rates.


But those are just deceiving because they don’t factor in fuel and in food, which is a massive part of most people’s


monthly expenses. So I mean, I look at inflation and unemployment is big. And you got to watch the markets as well, if if


companies don’t pick one,




Okay, Lisa, separate question.


Is it easier or harder to make it to the middle class and stay in the middle class?


That’s a good question.


That’s why he’s Frank once you know,


her, but I know I looked at how people are losing their job. A lot of people in jobs think that I’ve been on my job for 18 years, but I just look at how a lot of people are losing their jobs and in they’re unemployed, and I looked at the homeless.


So I think it’s really hard trying to maintain middle class,


that middle class battle a lot of times


because of unemployment, or other jobs. Eric, is it easier to make it into middle class or stay in the middle class?


I think it’s easier to stay there right now. I think a lot of your middle class jobs.


And not quite taking the hit yet. I think they’re mostly stable for a lot of people. But I think they notice it like in our grocery bills, where we noticed that we’re paying about triple for to feed our kids, our family, so we know it’s there. But our employment still pretty steady. I think if you are someone who was not in the middle class right now, with the way automation is coming in, and with the way you’re having to pay for utilities and food, things of that nature, I don’t know how you get ahead in the current environment, I think you can tread water, I’m not sure that you can advance very easily. With so much negativity expressed by our voter panel, it begs the question, do politicians even understand them? Are they listening? And do they care? Our panel of Democrats and Republicans who are highly critical of their members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, let’s listen why the politicians understand the economic challenges that you all face?


No, yes, no?




Yeah. How many of you say Show of hands? How many of you say the politicians do not understand your economic challenges?


Okay, that is almost everybody. What don’t they get? What don’t they understand. And most of health care, if you if you buy health care, you’re self employed, and you have to you don’t get subsidies, health care is killing you, I spend so many 1000s of dollars on on and I’m in good health, knock on wood, on health care, and can’t even get in to see a doctor. I think health care is going to destroy that this country.


I wouldn’t trust most of our national politicians to drive a car or babysit my kid for three hours. They don’t know their head from a hole in the ground. As far as what the regular people are having to deal with, or pay. They get shuffled around everywhere and propped up and told what to do told what to say things are bought for him. They don’t live a real life, there’s no way they could understand it. And then we’re gonna value judgment on him. If you put me in that world, and had me be a politician for 20 years, I would probably be susceptible to the same thing. They just don’t deal with reality like we do it, Can I comment, you hit it right on the head. And it’s not only the amount of benefits, but a lot of us don’t, don’t realize, and we don’t have all that extra.


You know, and we don’t have the temptation of, if I do something for somebody else, a lobbyist or some other corporate and I’m getting a kickback. We don’t we don’t have all that extra income from going making speeches and all of this other stuff. Their salary is just a drop in the bucket compared to it. But for most of us, we have to do with our salary or government benefits. Other than that, we gotta go look and go some other way to make money. It’s just not there. So why don’t they trust you somebody else? No, can I I’d like to comment because I believe that they do know and that’s how they exploit it and they know exactly what to say. And pretend to offer any little bit in every little corner. So they know what we deal with. They just don’t care and they want to profit off of it. Would you say that, Barbara?


Like on both sides, Deborah or Oh, absolutely. Oh, yes. Absolutely on both sides look at, look at what they’re doing, not what they’re saying, yes, thieves are sending billions of dollars to Ukraine and to terrorist who are murdering people worldwide. I’ve had enough. But they want to protect us on this 2% feel like they’re doing something for us. And we’ll all feel warm and special. It’s remarkable to me that they go to Washington and get fabulously wealthy. Well, well permitting it. We’ll go start with a guy in the mirror. From started. You’re a member of Congress is listening to you right now.


What would you tell them about the economy? Anthony, you go first? Yeah, please do something, you know, whatever you can to lower inflation, you know. And that would be a big start to improve in the economy. And so please do something. Well, that will my congressman, who I’m I don’t support, do something? Probably not. But that’s what I was doing. Lastly, what would you tell your congressman, if that individual is listening right now?


I’d say cut off the foreign aid, close the border, stop paying support for people who are in this country illegally, and do something about the national debt, even though it’s going to be painful?


Eric, when it comes to the economy, what would you tell your member of Congress?


Probably number one, Frank, because I would ask them to


spend some time in their district and actually talk to people.


I mean, we can’t even get that out of a lot of our elected representatives, you know, they they hide away from us. So I would want them just to actually sit down and talk to people in their district, not at a political rally, just to get to know them. And then I would ask them to to start putting more than resources here in the country, for people that are here who are struggling. We, we can’t be the world police all the time. There’s a time and a place for it. Your number one priority needs to be your own people.


Debbie, why would you tell your member of Congress, for them to understand the economic challenges you face? I would say definitely visit the people in your district, see what’s happening, see what’s happening in the neighborhoods. It’s, it’s messy, and it’s we need some sort of solution. So I completely agree with Eric.




Like, think about your the average person, you got to kind of do something to help everybody in every situation.


Victor? I mean, I would echo what I know, Eric and Debbie, I think Debbie said as well.


To spend more time in District. All right, I understand what’s happening at a local level. And I try to try to actually do stuff.


Nothing’s happening right now. It’s pretty quiet in DC. Well, not quiet, but there’s nothing going on. So I let you know. I would say like, let’s do something.


When it comes to the economy, Jordan, what would you tell your member of Congress, I would tell them to two things that are tied to the economy. One, you’re staring down the barrel of a cannon, when it comes to the national debt and the budget. You’ve got to get entitlement spending under the control or you’re not gonna have any spending for anything else. A big thing is the budget. Frank is the budget. We have a budget disaster right around the corner.


Lisa, what would you tell you a member of Congress about the economy, need transparency? I don’t just tell me what you think I want to hear. I really need you to do something there.


You know, I’m really passionate about the homeless situation.


And it’s just to see people living on streets. It’s unbelievable.


So, for me, it would be transparency. Don’t just say that you’re doing something telling me something that you think I want to hear. That’s kind of make me sleep at night now.


Switching questions. Can Washington actually affect economic conditions for people like you, James, I’ll ask you that question.


I know I’m not thinking about what I tell my congressman is he won’t listen, but


people like me, probably other than the inflation today. One of retirees biggest problems like them


Paying healthcare is paying taxes. So I am hoping that any tax changes in the future, I will be surprised by their padding on a bunch of things. And I hope that the good things with the tax cuts and Jobs Act or extended past 2026.


Actually, can Washington actually have an impact on the economy that people like you will feel?


I think they have the opportunity, whether or not they will take advantage of the ability to do that. I don’t know that they can get past the pandering to the very fringes of our democracy.


And try to come to some sort of consensus where I think the majority of us can probably agree that we need to see some real change for the economy.


Thomas, does Washington have the ability to help people like you economically,


their policies are putting us into the position where Reagan was inflation, 33 trillion in debt budgets, not balanced, we’re borrowing money from China, or we’re printing it. And people are struggling financially, and they have to figure out ways to get money in the pockets of the average people so that they can invest in their families and the in the economy.


John, can Washington make a difference for somebody like you? Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with Dallas from New Jersey, they got us into this mess based on the decisions they made. They just gotta go ahead and reverse reverse course and start prioritizing Citizens United States, I wanted to wrap up the conversation with a discussion of what went wrong economically, who is responsible for the mistakes and what can be done to fix it. But I got more than I bargained for. Let’s listen in.


What is the single biggest mistake that Washington is made


economically, that makes people like you makes your life more difficult. Jordan, the post COVID spending blowout and all the regulation.




sending money to countries man, we can’t take care of people in Philadelphia and Chicago and everywhere else.




its regulations and spending beyond the budget.


Deficit spending? That’s simple. And why do you say that? Because it’s eating up 20 some percent of our economy right now just on the interest. It’s unsustainable. Everybody, you have to live by a budget, I have to live by a budget. My state has to live by a budget. It’s it’s incomprehensible that the federal government doesn’t live by a budget and balance their budget.




taking us off the gold standard and making our money worthless, so they can print as much as they want.


And what damage to that do


33 34 trillion. We’re borrowing money from our enemies, and we’re paying money to our enemies. They’re putting our whole country our lives at stake. Our freedom is at stake.


What does Washington not understand about your own economic situation? That if they really got they can make a difference in your life?




James, I’d start with you. And then Deborah?


Well, I would I would say,


I would say taxes. I mean, for a retiree.


It’s you want to know that things are not going to radically change in five or 10 years and make things worse and in being maintained this same quality of life?




the debt to GDP ratio at 125% currently does not encourage people to want to do projects. I’m an architect and mechanical engineer. If they’re not comfortable, they’re not going to do projects. And every time they do this to our debt, it impacts everybody, because businesses do not go forward with projects.


Understand that we’re going to need fossil fuels for the next 50 to 100 years. You’ll never get to zero emissions and stop putting a wet blanket on us energies we can get gas prices under an energy prices under control.


Melissa, student loan debt and the cost of education. Why?


Because I think too many people including myself at one point are saddled with too much student debt. I mean, I’m YES student debt. And the cost of an education is extremely


Spensive and that’s why people are getting into debt.


That’s it.


You know, if education was free right now, the education they’re giving in the vast majority of schools, and I have an MBA, not worth a dime, it is just a Marxist indoctrination system. And again, it’s going to cost us all our lives if we let it keep going. That series.


And that’s a very dark note to end on.


But it’s something that we all should consider.


I want to thank you for doing this. I want to thank you for being civil to each other for being decent to each other is very helpful and instructive.


And there you have it, inflation, inflation, inflation, it affects everyone in every community in every corner of the country. Inflation dominates every economic conversation right now. So expected to dominate every political conversation as we approach election. 2024. And that’s all the time we have for America speaks. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. See you right here at straight arrow News.

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