This past 2013 was a hard year for many, in a variety of ways. For the average working American, regardless of politics, 2013 saw a continuation of wage stagnation, uncertainty about the future of their health care and a growing divide between those who must grapple with a rising cost of living and the wealthy 1% whose concerns are those of expanding luxury and securing increasingly vast wealth. For Wall Street sharks, the year was one of record setting price peaks and extravagant bonuses in what was the market’s strongest year in the past 18. And on the political front, Democrats, Republicans and Independents all found it to be a constant buffet of hostility, intractability, showdowns, shutdowns and bad noise to pick from.
Despite the costly and damaging government shutdown, the rocky roll out of Healthcare.gov and the endless posturing and obstruction by the 113th “do-nothing” congress, a recent Fox News poll showed that among registered Democrats, 64% said 2013 was overall a good year, with 26% claiming it was less than such. (We recognize that Fox News seems to have omitted the remaining 10%, who for the sake of the article, we’ll assume responded with a neutral answer.) Independents, they report, had a similar outlook, though with a smaller, 11% margin in favor.
On the other side of the spectrum, as one might expect, a narrow majority of Republicans (51%) found the year to be a bad one, with the figures worsening for those who identified as “Tea Party” Republicans, of whom 54% of respondents are said to have labeled it a “bad year.” In regards to the economy, a similar split occurred, with Democrats overwhelmingly believing next year would be better than this, and a slightly narrower majority of Republicans stating it would be worse. Independents again, leaned in the direction of Democratic sentiments, though by a smaller margin.
In regards to the general state of the economy, 54% of all respondents (cut along party lines) are said to be optimistic about what 2014 will hold. This mixed outlook, combined with the partisan demographic breakdown and the hard economic data in regards to job numbers and the health of the stock market, presents an equally surprising and not-so-surprising set of insights into the thinking throughout various demographic groups.
Despite the reality that the average working American is finding it harder and harder to get by on incomes which fail to rise to meet the cost of living, economic activity in regards to investment seems to maintain a central position in regards to how one views the overall health of the economy. With investors and corporations making out like bandits, one would think that the typically pro-corporate right wing would be more enthusiastic about the data, with progressive Democrats expressing a less than appreciative attitude towards the two divergent economic indicators.
However given the modern nature of partisan loyalty and entrenchment, the positive economic news under the Obama administration is soundly ignored — this in spite of a booming year for Wall Street and corporate America. Likewise, it would seem, at least from the results of this particular poll, that despite deep rooted dissatisfaction on the left with the generally pro-market economic agenda of the White House, the news of positive economic numbers from Wall Street proves encouraging to many in the Democratic party.
Beyond the partisan divisions, which themselves may even be feeding these very general figures regarding very general overall sentiments regarding this past year and the year to come, the stark realities faced by the nation remain substantially different than what typical partisan fervor or basic poll results are likely to demonstrate. With jobs numbers ticking upwards to the joy of progressive Obama supporters and to the chagrin of conservative detractors, such numbers typically fail to take into account both the increasingly dominant, low-pay, low-skill service sector for which many of such jobs originate from, as well as the fact that many of the long term unemployed have simply given up looking for work and have effectively dropped off of the public radar.
Mixing this already mixed bag even further, the trends of high corporate and investor profits mirroring the declining standard of living experienced by the majority of American working classes, a similar juxtaposition is being noted in the actions and reactions regarding such. As corporations and the ultra wealthy double down on their efforts to control government and public policy by way of campaign finance related lobbying activities, common citizens are rising up in greater numbers, with labor strikes taking place at Walmarts and throughout the fast food industries across the nation, and an ever increasing interest in less mainstream citizen journalism for perspectives on the matters beyond that which the corporate media would prefer the nation hear.
With the midterm elections and countless campaigns well underway, 2014 promises to be if nothing, a year ripe for surprises and complications. And if 2013 is to be by any measure taken as a sign of things to come, there should be no shortage of matters to be divided about.