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First Thoughts: The Great Disconnect five years later

The Great Disconnect five years after Lehman Brothers’ collapse… NBC/WSJ poll: Public down on the economy, down on Wall Street… GOP’s own economic disconnect -- policy vs. values… Public opposed to raising debt ceiling by 2-to-1 margin… More NBC/WSJ poll numbers (on health care) to come on Monday morning… And Biden heads to Iowa on Sunday.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about the financial collapse which took the U.S. by surprise in 2008 and reports on how the economy is faring today.

*** The Great Disconnect five years later: So much has improved since Lehman Brothers’ Sept. 15, 2008 collapse, which marked the beginning of the U.S. financial crisis. The Dow is up. So are corporate profits. The unemployment rate has gone down, though not where it was in Sept. 2008 (6.1%). And the housing market has been roaring back. But other measures show how the recovery still hasn’t been felt by all Americans. Median household income hasn’t improved since 2008, and the number living below the poverty level has increased. Consequently, there’s a gigantic disconnect about the U.S. economy five years after Lehman’s crash and Wall Street’s rescue: Some Americans, as well as corporate America, are doing very, very well. Other Americans, mostly the folks on Main Street, aren’t. “The top 1 percent of U.S. earners collected 19.3 percent of household income in 2012, their largest share in Internal Revenue Service figures going back a century,” the AP wrote earlier this week.

*** NBC/WSJ poll: Down on the economy: This reality is reflected in our new NBC/WSJ poll. Despite the good news on the economy over the past few months (at least statistically speaking), just 27% think the economy will get better over the next 12 months -- the lowest percentage in our poll since July 2012. In addition, 52% disapprove of Obama's job, which is the highest number for him since Aug. 2012. Americans also are worried about economic mobility. Of the respondents who identified themselves as poor or working class, only 29% say it’s likely they’ll be in the middle class over the next several years, down from 36% who said this in 1998. And when asked what worries respondents the most in their lives, the top answers -- they were allowed up to two -- were health care (34%), saving enough for retirement (29%), paying for groceries and utility bills (26%), and the cost of college (21%). Note: Down on this list was job security (17%), which suggests that many Americans aren’t struggling to find jobs; rather they’re struggling IN THEIR JOBS with wage stagnation especially as the cost of health, education and retirement all go up.

*** Also down on Wall Street: And oh, the American public isn’t too happy with Wall Street. Just 14% have a positive view of it, versus 42% who have a negative view. (Compare those numbers with Obama’s 45%-42% fav/unfav rating, the GOP’s 28%-44% score, and the Tea Party’s 25%-42%.) You probably didn’t need a poll to tell you many of these things above, but sometimes you need it to bring these issues to the forefront and take a sledgehammer to the media and political classes in the Acela Corridor. The big disconnect is made even bigger since the economy has recovered so much more quickly in the New York-to-DC area, so the very folks who are in charge of policy (or covering the people in charge of policy) are living in a bubble.

*** GOP’s own economic disconnect: policy vs. values: The NBC/WSJ poll also shows that the Republican Party has made gains on the economy since Feb. 2013, right after Obama began his second term in office. The GOP has a 4-point advantage (33%-29%) on which party is better dealing with the economy. Back in February, it was Democrats with a 2-point edge (32%-30%). So that’s the good news for the GOP. The bad news is its perception about looking out for the middle class. Per the poll, Democrats hold a 17-point advantage (41%-24%) on which party is seen as better looking out for the middle class. More significantly, the poll asked which individuals or groups represent the middle class either very well or fairly well. The results: Bill Clinton 48%, Barack Obama 39%, Dem Party 37%, George W. Bush 28%, Republican Party 23%, Tea Party 22%. Another way to put it: All the Democratic groups or leaders fare better than their GOP counterparts. This all suggests the GOP has its own disconnect between policy and values. It might be winning on the economy because it doesn’t control the White House. But the party’s brand -- when it comes to representing middle-class values -- is a mess.

*** Public opposed to raising debt ceiling by a 2-to-1 margin: Here’s one final set of numbers from our NBC/WSJ poll:  By a 2-to-1 margin (44%-22%), the American public does NOT think the debt ceiling should be raised. However, Obama and others have power to change attitudes here. In the June 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, Americans were against raising the debt ceiling by a 39%-28% margin. But a month later -- after significant attention to the issue -- those numbers flipped: 38% said the debt ceiling SHOULD be raised, versus 31% who said it SHOULD NOT. The question is if the president still has the juice to turn those numbers around.   

*** More NBC/WSJ poll numbers to come: By the way, we’ll have one final installment of NBC/WSJ poll numbers we’ll release first thing Monday morning -- on the health-care law and its implementation.

*** Biden to Iowa: The other thing on our radar screen is Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Iowa on Sunday, where he’ll attend (along with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro) the annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, IA between 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET. 

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