06/09/2014 10:27 am ET Updated Aug 06, 2014

Gallup: U.S. Standard Of Living Soars, While The Economy Plunges

On 6 June 2014, Gallup headlined "In U.S., Standard of Living Index Climbs to Six-Year High," and on 14 January 2014, Gallup headlined "Americans" Satisfaction With Economy Sours Most Since 2001."

The June 6th poll showed that Americans' economic expectations for themselves were rosier than ever since Gallup started polling on this in January 2008; the bottom in these expectations occurred November 2008 when the Bush economy tanked and Obama was elected; and the rise since then has been virtually continuous.

The January 14th poll showed an all-time low, since Gallup first polled on this question in 2001, of Americans' satisfaction with the U.S. economy. Only 28% were satisfied in January 2014, versus 68% who had been satisfied during 10-14 January 2001, at the very end of Bill Clinton's Presidency, just before George W. Bush's.

What sense can be made of these two findings together?

The higher people's future expectations are, the lower those same people's satisfaction with the present is, and vice-versa.

If people are unsatisfied with the present, they have a rosier view of the future. If people are satisfied with the present, they fear the future.

The poll published on 6 June 2014 had asked "Right now, do you feel your standard of living is getting better, or getting worse?" In late 2008, 33% said "getting better." In May 2014, 59% did.

The poll published 16 January 2014 had asked whether respondents were satisfied with "the state of the nation's economy." In early January 2014, 28% were, versus the 68% who were, immediately prior to George W. Bush's Presidency.

People are optimistic about the future because the present is lousy.

Previously, people were pessimistic about the future because the present was terrific.

A century ago, a theory of relativity was introduced in the physical sciences.

Now, a theory of relativity is being introduced in the social sciences.

Or: do you have a different explanation for Gallup's joint findings, that the U.S. standard of living soars while the economy plunges?


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST"S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.