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Stocks Rise, Obama’s Poll Numbers Fall: What Gives?

Aaron Task
Daily Ticker

The stock market is at a three-year high, corporate earnings are surging and, yet, President Obama's poll numbers are falling again.

Obama's approval rating fell to 47% in the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll vs. 51% last month, ending a "bump" that began with his speech in Tucson in January.

Whether Obama's handling of the budget debate or Libya or something else entirely is to blame, it's clear the American people are unsatisfied with the President, whose overall disapproval ratings have risen to 50% from 45% a month ago.

Obama still scores well in the "likability" factor so his personality is not really the issue here. Instead, a timeless political axiom applies: It's the economy stupid.

Despite the roaring stock market, 57% disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, according to WaPo/ABC, even as large majorities agree with the President about the need to raise taxes on the wealthy and maintain funding for Medicare.

There's a relatively simple explanation for this seeming contradiction: unemployment remains high, wages are stagnant and the housing market is lousy.

In addition, a weak dollar disproportionately hurts ordinary Americans by reducing their purchasing power and crippling the value of savings.

At the same time, the weak dollar is helping boost the overseas profits of U.S. multinationals like GE, Honeywell, IBM and Intel, which is rewarding to U.S. shareholders but not workers. Because of taxes and other incentives, these companies are increasingly keeping that money -- and the jobs -- overseas, as The WSJ reported this week.

Despite all the talk about the "democratization" of Wall Street, the reality is the reflation of financial assets disproportionately accrues to the wealthiest Americans.

The top 1% of U.S. households held 42.7% of the country's "financial wealth" as of 2007, the most recent figure available, according to Professor Edward Wolff of the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College.

The key here is Wolff looks at "non-home wealth", i.e. marketable securities other than real estate. Thanks in large part to the housing boom, which helped offset stagnant wages, "wealth inequality, after rising steeply between 1983 and 1989, remained virtually unchanged from 1989 to 2007," Wolff writes.

But the housing bust, which hit all sectors of society, had a much more damaging effect on ordinary Americans. Since the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, the wealth (marketable assets) of the median household has fallen an "astounding" 36.1%, according to Wolff. Meanwhile, the wealth of the top 1% has fallen just 11.1%.

Add in anxiety over the deficit and a nagging feeling the rebound is just (another) Fed-induced bubble, and it's no wonder most Americans aren't feeling the love for the "recovery"… or President Obama.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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