The latest inflation figures for May were better than some expected, with a rate of only 6.3%.
Could have fooled me. It feels like 10%. And I'm not alone.
According to the latest Monmouth University poll, more than 4 in 10 Americans now say they're struggling to stay where they are economically, the highest number since they started asking the question five years ago, and an 18% increase just in the last year.
This is what inflation feels like.
Granted, it's particularly bad here in the land of $7 gas (they even advertise those prices!), but anyone who buys groceries on a regular basis knows that a hundred-dollar bill no longer buys you more than a bag-full, and forget about change for a 20 when you take the kids for fast food; forget about the 20 being enough.
There's the no change for a 20 situation, and the fact that everything that used to cost $7 or $8 now costs $10, not to mention the advent of the $15 sandwich. Forget about meat and even poultry. Everything costs more, and you're reminded of it every single time you take out your wallet.
The most troubling number on the poll, from a political point of view, is the right-track/wrong-track number. That's the measure that predicts whether the party in power is likely to stay there.
The number of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track, according to that same poll, is 88%.
That is a stunning number. If this were a presidential year, it would be grounds for a decision not to run. It is certainly not where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the country to be heading into a fight for both the House and the Senate.
If there is any good news for Democrats in the poll, it is that the country is equally divided on who should run Congress, which may help some Democrats in close races but hardly paints a rosy picture for the president and his policies.
For all the criticism that has been aimed at the president and his team, the polls and the pundits are remarkably short on solutions. People do blame Washington — the same polls show that, by astronomical margins, they see national policy as hurting and not helping — but there's no consensus on solutions.
In the short run, at least, the one set of numbers the president can work on is the number of Americans who think he cares about people like them and is trying to help them. In a country where virtually all of us identify as middle-class, the fact that the polls show that most Americans don't think his policies help the middle class leaves open the question of who they do help. Not the poor, either, according to the poll.
And certainly not the rich, if you listen to the rhetoric. Whoever is being helped — there must be someone — apparently doesn't know it. The president has, at the very least, a very serious communications problem.
We are at a troubling point in our politics. The president's approval/disapproval numbers are bad: 36/57, meaning he isn't even carrying the Democratic base. But Congress' are lower still, with only 15% of Americans approving of the job Congress is doing. This is against a backdrop of hearings that have called into question the very foundation of our democracy as it existed on Jan. 6.
Who is there to trust?
President Joe Biden came into office as the decent and honorable alternative. He is still that. And that still matters. But it isn't enough, at least not when inflation is soaring and nearly half of us say we're struggling to stay even. It's always the economy.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.