THE BLOG
10/14/2014 12:27 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Economic Numbers Are Always Supported by How We Feel

How is the economic record of President Barack Obama since taking office? In our contemporary "shirts versus skins" political approach, I suspect the answer depends largely on how one examines the numbers.

When the president took office unemployment was at 7.8 percent; in the third quarter of 2014 it stands at 5.9 percent. As of September 30 there were 5,459,000 more people working than in 2009.

However, more than 3 million continue to suffer from long-term unemployment. Under the president the average number of weeks, which one is out of work stands at 31.5, which is 11.7 weeks longer than the average just prior to his taking office.

Real household income is down by 4.9 percent; persons in poverty have increased by 5,489,000, and food stamp recipients have increased by 45 percent.

What about Wall Street? How might the financial markets grade the president's economic record?

The Dow Jones Industrial average that was slightly below 8,000 when the president took office but as of this writing is hovering in the around 17,000. Standard and Poor's 500 has increased by 144 percent and corporate profits have increased 174 percent.

There are obviously more numbers that one can peruse to examine the overall state of the American economy, some might suggest the economy is strong, while others may point to its weakness.

Some pundits argue the president has guided the nation from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, others point to the most anemic economic recovery ever. Others suggest there is no connection between Wall Street and Main Street.

Can all be right?

There is one economic number that cannot be debated -- the one that lies in your gut. Do you feel or believe the economy is good; and is that based on the economic numbers you hear?

The state of the Down Jones, real GDP, money supply, Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, and unemployment all fall short to how one feels.

There remain too many Americans who do not feel that the state of the economy is equivalent to the recent numbers offered by Wall Street.

Sitting behind most economic numbers like the Great Oz there also exists how one feels.

The genesis may be economic, it may be unexamined and undefined but America suffers from a "feelings" gap that is becoming pervasive throughout the country.

It is bolstered by reports that suggest an uneven economic recovery. According the Pew Research Center released in 2013, during the first two years of the economic recovery (2009-2011), the net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution rose 23 percent, while the bottom 93 percent saw their net worth decline by 4 percent.

But it is larger economically than consumer confidence or the right track/wrong track poll politically; both can change quarterly.

Such feelings find ways to bleed into other aspects of American society, tending to be more entrenched into the culture. What may begin as economic feelings can become sociological and political that color how we see race, gender, immigration, class, as well as other issues.

It can also be the basis by which one seeks to explain anthropological mores.

Like NFL quarterbacks, presidents tend to receive far too much credit when the economy expands, and too much blame when things go awry economically. But it remains that linear process by which most make assessments about the commander in chief's job performance.

This is not to suggest the president does not warrant criticism or praise for the policies enacted on his watch. For good or bad, the economic numbers alone cannot tell the entire story.

Moreover, when we take those "feelings," some endowed with actual economic data, others not so much, to explain the mosaic that is America in political, sociological, and anthropological terms, it is path that will more likely end as half-baked analysis than something that explains the complexities of who we are today.