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Column: 'It's the economy, stupid' as true today as in 1992

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Boyette has come home to Aiken Standard 1

John Boyette

It’s “the economy, stupid.”

That famous phrase comes to mind as we publish today the fourth installment of our series on the upcoming presidential election. Reporter Colin Demarest takes a look at the economy, which has suffered greatly because of the coronavirus pandemic, and what it means when voters head to the polls.

“The economy, stupid” phrase can be traced back to James Carville, who was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential bid. The story goes that Carville posted a sign around campaign headquarters with three phrases, and the economy one was the most memorable.

It soon became the rallying cry for the Clinton campaign and later entered pop culture lore.

Carville was right, though: Most Americans of voting age care deeply about their finances. The global factors of the economy have a broad impact on so many facets of our lives, including our wages, our employment status and our savings/retirement accounts.

While the recent drop in oil prices has resulted in a drop in the prices we pay at the pump, it’s hard to take advantage of that when we are (presumably) driving less because of shelter-in-place orders. I’m filling up my truck about every two weeks now instead of once a week.

Unemployment claims continue to climb across the U.S. as many businesses remain shuttered because of the pandemic. Last week, we did see the number of claims in South Carolina drop from the week before, so that seems encouraging.

I’ve been in the stock market through my 401(k) programs at work for nearly 35 years. I’ve seen many highs and lows, but one thing I have learned is that the market generally performs well around presidential election years.

According to one website, in the 23 election years since 1928 there have only been four times when the market failed to generate a positive return. Those years were 1932 (Great Depression), 1940 (brink of World War II), 2000 (dotcom bubble burst and rising interest rates) and 2008 (Great Recession).

Our economy was going great guns until coronavirus entered our world a couple of months ago. Like others, I saw my 401(k) take a significant hit. But it has started to rebound, and I hope that trend continues. We have a long way to go in 2020 before we know how the pandemic plays out and how the economy will react.

As the nation struggles with how and when to reopen businesses, I don’t envy our political leaders. It will be interesting to see how the pandemic affects voting.

In the meantime, stay safe and do what you can to support local businesses. I hope that “the coronavirus, stupid” doesn’t replace “the economy, stupid” anytime soon.

Thanks for reading.

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