There are many good reasons to be unhappy with the economy today: by conventional social democratic metrics like union density, welfare generosity, and public ownership levels, the economy is not in good shape, and recent trends have been mixed at best.

by Matt Bruenig, Jacobin

I have been closely monitoring the recent discourse on the goodness of the economy, and I think I’ve fully mapped it out and understand why it keeps breaking down. What is being presented as an argument about one question is actually an argument about three different questions:

  1. Is the economy good?
  2. Did Joe Biden do a good job with the economy given political constraints?
  3. Why do people say the economy is bad when asked by survey takers?

Each of these questions is interesting when analyzed separately. But when you mush them together without realizing you are doing that, you end up in a rhetorical quagmire that causes frustration and confusion.

Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden (D - Delaware) makes a speech at a campaign stop at the River Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

My interest in the debate is mostly on question number one, i.e. whether the economy is good. When I was introduced to this discourse, this seemed to be what people were arguing about, with the consensus sentiment from liberal thought-leaders being that the economy is not only good, but is extremely good, and that any viewpoint to the contrary is bad faith, borderline insane, or factually bankrupt.

I found this peculiar, because whether the economy is good or bad is, at minimum, a highly contestable question that turns as much on your ideological views about what makes an economy good as it does on various factual indicators.

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