David Plouffe: ALSO Wrong on Consumer Confidence

enjoy consumer confidence

enjoy consumer confidence by Shira Golding,

Greg Sargent has a post arguing that complaints about David Plouffe’s comments about unemployment are being distorted.

It seems Plouffe was actually asked a question about whether and how the unemployment rate would impact the Presidential race. He replied by claiming that the number itself wouldn’t impact people’s votes. In other words, Plouffe himself didn’t initially establish the political context. Plouffe then launched into a discussion about how the anemic recovery is experienced by people on a personal level. It was in that context that Plouffe reiterated that people won’t vote based on the numer alone.

You can accuse Plouffe of being wrong in claiming that people won’t vote based on the percentage of unemployed — I tend to think it may loom in people’s minds. You can argue that it was a misstep in that the quote does sound tone-deaf when reproduced without the surrounding context, and it’s understandable why people would see it as insensitive when viewed without that context.

But as Dave Weigel notes, the quote in isolation is widely being distorted in the media as a sign that Obama’s advisers have their heads in the sand about the economy.

Except that the transcript Sargent includes actually proves that Plouffe does have his head in the sand about the economy. After explaining that people don’t think of the economy in terms of unemployment numbers or GDP (I agree), he claims that people are actually feeling better about the economy.

The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. [my emphasis]

Problem is, there’s a way to measure people’s attitude about their own personal situation, and it is not improving. Two key measures of consumer confidence, at least, show people’s attitude about their own personal situation has declined in the last month.

The consumer-sentiment gauge fell to 71.5 at the end of June from 74.3 in May. A preliminary June reading had pegged sentiment at 71.8.

The sentiment reading, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, averaged about 87 in the year before the start of the most recent recession.


Earlier this week, a separate report showed that consumer confidence fell in June to the worst level in eight months on concerns about employment and income.

The Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index fell to 58.5 for the month from an upwardly revised 61.7 in May. Generally, when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at 90 and above.

Now, consumer confidence may well turn around, and it has been going up with small hints of a turnaround. But it is not up right now–the Conference Board survey is worse than it has been for months.

Look, I’m not trying to make it easy for Mitt Romney to attack Barack Obama. But at every turn, the Administration does seem deaf to the complaints of ordinary people. Mitt’s no more in touch with those complaints, I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his aides don’t have to start listening to the pain of real people.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

47 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    But at every turn, the Administration does seem deaf to the complaints of ordinary people.

    Not just deaf. The figures you quote show that Plouffe is just making shit up and claiming that is what ordinary people think.

    • lindytindy says:

      Indeed, what else are they going to say. They have screwed up royally. At every turn the Obama regime has had the opportunity to make real changes that would have both helped us and saved the economy because obviously saving us is what is needed to restore our consumer economy. If we don’t have jobs we can’t spend money, can’t buy homes, can’t do much of anything. Duh! No rocket science here. Yes, they actually are as stupid as they appear. Obama listens to Wall Street, the idiots who brought the world economy to its knees. And it’s not over yet. The more he follows their direction the worse it will get. I don’t know where he digs up morons like Plouffey Puss, but he’s larded his administration with fascist fools like this. We tend to hire in our own image. Case closed. But you know it’s not the idiocy that had me whacking my punching bag yesterday with Obama’s face pinned to it, it is the lies, the outrageous, intelligence insulting lies this administration keeps telling, like we are so stupid we will believe this bullshit.

      • PJEvans says:

        Mr O is a !@#$%^&* Republican, who’s registered (like so many others) as a Dem because there’s no way he could go anywhere in the GOP.

  2. Arbusto says:

    One of the most insulated, non-caring Administrations evvver. Obama’s new campaign slogan: One more year, one more year!

  3. drweevil says:

    Obama and his administration simply don’t care about the pain of real people. That much is clear from their actions to date. To them, it’s all about the Great Game of getting reelected. They think that with their Wall Street patron’s money (they get that by listening to those people) and the laughable state of the GOP they can win without addressing the pain of real people. They may be right. But that doesn’t make it right.

  4. Tracerfan says:

    This crew is a bunch of corrupt bunglers.

    Now, they are going to screw the American people en masse.

  5. Bluetoe2 says:

    I want this group of sycophants and sociopaths to be defeated in 2012. They are deserving of ignominious defeat and if that means a Republican victory so be it. The U.S. is entering a pre-revolutionary phase and if a Republican victory speeds that up then all the better. There will be blood and this time it’s going to be the plutocrats that suffer. In fact, all the better if Michelle Bachman is the nominee. To quote Robert Graves in his sequel to “I, Claudius”, “let all the poisons come out.”

  6. nonpartisanliberal says:

    Employed people know that a high unemployment rate makes their own situation more precarious and takes away their leverage to get a raise.

    Plouffe must think that he can fool some number of congressional Democrats with this nonsense so that they will let Obama lead them off the cliff when he tries to push through the grand bargain reached with his Republican allies on the debt ceiling.

    Obama doesn’t care about losing re-election because he will be rewarded for pushing through the Republican agenda (that is actually bipartisan) and protecting Wall Street crooks once he leaves the White House. It won’t be the little people who will be paying him millions of dollars in speaking fees. It serves him well to keep his own tax rates low.

    Obama isn’t stupid; he’s sinister.

  7. econobuzz says:

    When it takes 15 paragraphs to explain that one of Barry’s lackeys actually does give a shit about unemployment, one doth protest too much, me thinks. But YMMV.

    Comment is about Sargent, to be clear.

  8. Bluetoe2 says:

    When are the godamned unions going to come and call for a primary challenge to this prick in the WH and his groveling crew of courtesans????

  9. hijean831 says:

    15% un- or under-employment. If each of those folks has only ONE other person who cares about them, you’re looking at a third of the workforce, or a segment of the voting public way larger than any poll’s margin of error.

    The number itself may not impact their votes, but the fact that they are included in it, will.

  10. onitgoes says:

    Obama doesn’t care about anything. He’s got his, and nothing else matters. I don’t think Obama gives a rat’s patoot whether he’s elected in 2012 or not. Why should he?? His billion$$$ are assured.

    We need to stop the guessing games about what Obama thinks or wants.

    The elites are out to rip us off, grind us under, etc etc. That’s the message, and there’s really not much else to know.

    Things like Plouffe says blah blah or Obama says blue blue… don’t matter. They’re not even trying very hard anymore to be real… or even have a shred of fact in what they’re saying. Why? Because it doesn’t matter… not to them.

    And frankly, how many US citizens do YOU know who are actually paying any attention?? I know very few. I try to wake folks up; it works sometimes; but too many are *oblivious* and/or in denial.

  11. dandelion says:

    it seems to me that plouffe doesn’t think average Americans will consider unemployment when voting because he doesn’t believe the unemployed are average Americans — they’re something other.

    I ran into this disconnect having dinner with a friend out visiting from DC. This friend is a Democrat with a lot of work experience and ties on the Hill and he was shocked, shocked I tell you to realize that I, a middle-class white middle-aged college grad, had many friends who’d lost jobs and homes. He really truly didn’t understand that this recession was affecting people who were “like him.”

    • Twain says:

      My feeling is that they think the unemployed won’t bother to vote. If they’re wrong, it’s all over.

    • PJEvans says:

      DC has a much lower unemployment rate than the rest of the country – he probably didn’t realize how bad it is, because it’s not visible there.

  12. leftofcenter says:

    I used to think Obama was just inept at making a deal. Now, I’ve come to agree with those who see him as corrupt, as part of the bankster system that has replaced our democracy with a plutocracy. Carlin was absolutely right: the owners have come to take away our SS, and Obama is one of them, not one of us. He just couldn’t wait to get in that club (as Frank Rich recently wrote in New York Magazine). And like Krugman wrote in today’s NYT, he doesn’t seem to have any real economists on his team anymore, just spin meisters like Plouffe who try to fabricate their own convenient reality regardless of the real suffering in America.

  13. 4cdave says:

    Unless you are in the top 5%, the depression has never ended, there was no recovery, and the phase we are entering is not a “double-dip”, but just more of the same. At best, the second derivative (the rate at which things are getting worse) leveled out for a while, now it may start to increase again.

    And Obama’s numbers are where they are, and are good enough to get him re-elected against Perry/Bachmann.

    If there had been a recovery, Obama’s numbers would be 15 points higher, or even 20.

    The idea that his numbers will tank because of the continued bad economy simply flies in the face of reason.

    Now, if the economy gets a great deal worse in the next 18 months, all bets are off.

    • dandelion says:

      Not sure about that. There’s the electoral college after all. He’s lost Florida. It’s going to come down, as always to Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I think he’s lost Pennsylvania. He may keep Michigan. So it’s down, again, to Ohio.

      People can only throw out the bums they have, not the bums they wish they had.

      • Twain says:

        I say that Obama hangs on by his fingernails because the R candidates are all so looney.

        • jedimsnbcko19 says:

          are going to send money to a black candidate that just attack SOCIAL SECURITY? thinking he is going to win in 2012?

          if you have money to waste like that please send more to FDL

          OBAMA was done with OBAMACARE

          • Twain says:

            I’m NOT voting for Obama or sending money. I just think he will manage to win whether I like it or not.

            • jedimsnbcko19 says:

              Good for you TWAIN

              dems win house

              dem win senate

              dem lose WH with OBAMA on the ticket

              and everyone will act like they are shocked this happen. How did OBAMA lose will be the cry? and the answer will be real simple! A black candidate can not punch HIPPIES, because HIPPIES are the only ones that will vote for him or her.

              giving money to OBAMA is a complete waste of your money and time

              what really hurts OBAMA, is the fact UNION candidates running for the HOUSE will attack HIM in 2012

              “Yes this week OBAMA just sent more Jobs out the country”

              Senate Dems will distance themselves from him big time!!! who does OBAMA appeal to in 2012?

              who? don’t say blacks, last check black un-employment is close to 30% in some areas

    • jedimsnbcko19 says:

      I here people say this all the time

      this is silly talk

      You can’t ignore the fact OBAMA is black!!!! because he is

      NO black candidate can attack his liberal base and when shit in the USA. FACT!!!

      the GOP can run mickey mouse and beat OBAMA in 2012? WHY their base has already came out and voted for PALIN mickey mouse COUSIN

      We have worked on to many minority campaigns, and know, NO intelligent Black candidate attacks his BASE and WINs

      2008 was all about BUSH!!! BUSH put OBAMA in the WH

      in 2012 there will be no BUSH

      Obama needed a super economy to win in 2012, and he would need every hippy vote, liberal vote, progressive vote he could find to squeak by a win in a great economy.

      Obama mission is not to win in 2012! he was always a 1 termer

      NO BLACK CANDIDATE in the USA can ATTACK his LIBERAL base and win CRAP!

      answer this question? how many black US SENATORS are there now? 0

      • 4cdave says:

        All those things have occurred, and his numbers are what they are. His numbers aren’t going to fall off a cliff all of a sudden because of things that have already happened. This new SS debacle could tank his numbers, but he has $1 billion to spend on advertising to counteract that. Also, that’s why he is insisting on tax increases in the package, to offset the effect by providing attack ads against Republicans.

        2008 wasn’t about Bush, it was about demographic decline among the Reagan coalition, that is still ongoing. 2010 was about the Republicans turning out nearly all their voters, while Democratic voters were disillusioned, and young people and AAs don’t turn out well in midterms, anyway.

        • jedimsnbcko19 says:

          obama numbers are soft at best

          I have seen this story a lot, ask GOV. WILDER of Virginia, the numbers before election day always look great for a black candidate, the problem is the numbers after the election.

          OBAMA needs a base with a lot of energy to win? Obama will not have this in 2012

          Do you think, a black candidate like OBAMA can punch hippies, over, and over, like CLINTON? and win? do you?

          Dems are going to come out in vote in 2012, but will they vote for OBAMA again? the million dollar question? and the answer is NO

          Black candidates CAN NOT give their voters any reason not to Vote for THEM! Period

          Obama has gave a lot of his voters hundreds of reasons not to vote for him.

          OBAMA better turn to LEFT QUICK or it may get ugly!!! because he will not win trying to be more conservative than Clarence THomas

  14. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    The Hidden Story here is this?

    Obama “the black guy” that wants to kill Social Security, Medicare, Medicade is not getting re-elected

    Only fools would give money to OBAMA after his attack on Social Security.

    the other big KABUKI GAME progressives must come to grips with is the fact that the ELITES are keeping OBAMA afloat for 1 reason to keep him from being primaried.

    David Plouffe and OBAMA are very, very, EVIL and SINISTER

    What political chief with half a brain would let his BLACK candidate “OBAMA” attack Social Security and tell people we can win in 2012? this is the real EVIL story

    OBAMA like KO, JANE, and others have said has never been a friend of SOCIAL SECURITY. OBAMA hand picked the Catfood Commission whose only mission was to kill Social Security

    We Progressives must force DEMOCRATS around the USA to ask this simple question. Can a black candidate like OBAMA attack Social Security and win an election? NO

    Our next game plan should be to tell all of OBAMA donors to give money to real DEMS senators, and house members seeking to take back the DEM party.

    dis-connect OBAMA from his DONORS!!! should be the main task of PROGRESSIVES

    I repeat can a black male candidate attack social security, medicare, medicade, and win an election? if the answer is NO, Don’t send money to OBAMA, because he is un-electable

  15. catch22oy says:

    This may not be original but, “When your neighbor’s out of work it’s a recession; when you’re out of work it’s a depression.”

  16. john in sacramento says:


    In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

    Who said this? What brain dead, know-nothing, ass kisser said that? Plouffe? Or Sargent?


    Come to my world you fuckoff

    Every single day I see homeless people. Every. Single. Day. They’re everywhere. Every day I leave my house, no matter what direction I go, I see homeless people. When I go to get a coke and use the wifi at the McDonald’s I see homeless people digging through the garbage cans outside the door. I see people digging through dumpsters. I see people standing in the traffic medians with their signs asking for money.

    Every. Single. Day.

    I have a friend who has a friend who used to make six figures (over $100,000), this person now goes to food banks and is on food stamps

    “Improved over time”

    Sounds like “let them eat cake” to me

  17. TarheelDem says:

    Plouffe’s statement is that the White House opinion is that merely fixing the unemployment numbers won’t win them the election. That is the situation of the voters, not their “consumer confidence” but their actual situation that will be determinative.

    What he left unsaid is that there need only be an electoral majority of people whose situation is both acceptable and who perceive this to be the positive result of Obama policies and vision OR is not acceptable and blame, not Obama, but the Republicans for their policies and vision. There is a large bunch of the latter in Obama’s base and who are not going to desert him.

    Plouffe is right about not getting caught up in statistics. But he is much too sanguine about the appeal to the say 40% of voters who need to be in the first category for him to win — and who are not seduced by Republican ideology of private success.

    Don’t pick on him with word games. Criticize the fact that he thinks that a sufficient number of voters will indeed be in a better situation AND give credit to Obama for it. That’s really the weakness in his argument, It’s not the worse-off folks he’s likely to lose; it’s the better off folks who think they are in spite of Obama.

    • Fractal says:

      Criticize the fact that he thinks that a sufficient number of voters will indeed be in a better situation AND give credit to Obama for it. That’s really the weakness in his argument, It’s not the worse-off folks he’s likely to lose; it’s the better off folks who think they are in spite of Obama.

      That is some sharp thinkin’ right there. (Apologies for coming so late to the party, I was obsessing about Murdoch Inc. all day.)

      TarHeel is showing the roadmap to defeat. Because none of us is gonna do a damn thing to help Obama out of the hole he dug himself into, and he is gonna run out of “better off folks” who give him personal credit for their surviving this disaster.

      I thought Twain @22 and @26 made good sense, too, but even Twain didn’t claim that Obama is gonna win because his base is gonna push him over the top despite hating his guts.

      I guess we’ll know in less than six months (Iowa primaries in 5 months & 3 weeks). We don’t need to recruit a primary challenge, the unions don’t need to waste their money inside the party, Obama is toast as long as the oligarchs refuse to spend any of their two trillion dollars of cash to hire anybody.

      • jedimsnbcko19 says:

        It is deeper than that

        Obama only purpose now is to keep a progressive out of the WH, this was his task in 2008 and it will be the same for 2012

        A black candidate that attacks SOCIAL SECURITY will not win any election

        Un-employment will be 10% to 12%

        Progressives need to tell everyone, to not donate any money to OBAMA, let OBAMA masters pay him off

        PICTURE this commercial

        Elderly Couple sitting around a table, looking at their small Social Security Check, that OBAMA had cut

        with a shot of OBAMA laughing with the Orange Man while playing Golf

        this commercial here ENDs OBAMA

        • Fractal says:

          what does it mean to be “deeper” than “Obama is toast”?

          (and yer CAPLOCKS are still broken)

  18. orionATL says:

    i suspect plouffe was simply trying to keep any “obama can’t win because of the economy” theme from starting in the media.

    i doubt he is personally insensitive to the importance of unemployment to individuals, to the economy, to govt revenue, and to his guy’s chances of re-election.

    i wonder, though, if he anticipated the “obama” is oblivious” (to the hurt of unemployment) theme that is developing from ploufee’s comments.

    because it seems to fit obama’s behavior in the white house, i believe the latter theme is potentially far more damaging to the president’s re-election chances.

  19. MadDog says:

    OT – In case folks missed it, Ben Wittes over at Lawfare now has a post up responding to EW and Spencer Ackerman on the “debate over drone wars”:

    My Reply To Empty Wheelerman I

    As Ben notes, this is Part I of II where he “mostly” responds to Spencer’s response post, and Ben promises that his future Part II response will be addressed to EW’s posts (1 & 2).

    I would note that Ben’s post today, while it does respond to Spencer, is also somewhat of a response to EW as well.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, I was sort of holding my response for after he does part II.

      My short response to what he did today?

      Arguing in the same post that 1) we have to use war to fight AQ et al, but then saying that the upside of a downside tech is that it allows us to not really fight war ought to suggest something’s wrong w/your framework.

      • MadDog says:

        I agree with your decision to hold off until he responds directly to your posts and points.

        That said, I was struck by this gibberish:

        …Ackerman here is really interweaving two distinct points, one of which in my view has more merit than the other. The point with merit is the idea that drones enable the waging of war without many of the attendant public costs–including the sort of public accounting that necessarily happens when you deploy large numbers of troops. I have no argument with him on this score, save that he seems to be looking at only one side of a coin that, in fact, has two sides. Ackerman sees that drones make it easy to get involved in wars. But he ignores the fact that for exactly the same reason, they make it easier to limit involvement in wars

        …My point is not that drones are a magic bullet; they aren’t. But their precision and safety and relatively low cost do allow the country to contemplate limited involvement in conflicts that might otherwise prove magnets for escalation and quagmire…

        Drones make it easier to “limit involvement in wars”?

        As far as I can tell, Ben’s “second side of the coin” nonsensical rejoinder is no more than a affirmation of the first side of that coin; namely that drones make it easier to wage war.

        He blithely concludes, without any proof, and much evidence to the contrary, that drone wars won’t produce “escalation and quagmire”, or for that matter any other negative consequences like increasing the ranks of folks who want to strike us back.

        Labeling him silly would be the kindest thing I could think of.

  20. dandelion says:

    It’s possible American voters won’t care about the economy when they vote in 2012 simply because there won’t be any economy left.

  21. PJEvans says:

    I have some friends I’d like to introduce Mr Plouffe to. Unfortunately he’d probably have to pay them for the privilege – they’ve been ‘underemployed’ for three or so years.

  22. lawordisorder says:

    JZZ you guys makes what we do allmost impossible

    Anyway if im correct you guys should get a “substantial” swipe of a company creditcard from a local editor… my compliments kids
    jzz secrets are very hard to keep with you guys around LOL

    If they are better than you, i would hire them, Just wanna remind you all that stepping away from the abyss off “war on terror” and into focus of what even Admiral Mullen acknowledge is the “strategic longterm problem” is the American Economy, is what i would describe as one of the most difficult Potomac “two steps” more than you guys will ever know

    But were getting there guys one step at the time, so just keep at it

    have a nice day…t004r

  23. rosalind says:

    ot: and the PR pivot to Yemen has begun. shorter Panetta: “Al Qaeda” is vanquished! On to “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”!

    And in the middle of the story on why the U.S. will be blowing up many more innocent Yemenis this sentence: “The U.S. has also targeted Anwar al Awlaki, a U.S. citizen hiding in Yemen, in a drone strike but had missed killing him.”

    No context. No explanation. Obama targeting an American citizen for assassination with no due process now just a tossed off sentence in the midst of a Panetta PR blitz.

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