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Economic Shock: 2/3 Of Americans Living ‘Paycheck To Paycheck’ Under Biden: I&I/TIPP Poll

24% of Americans have $0 for financial emergencies.

Democrat politicians seem befuddled by the general lack of respect for what they believe are the accomplishments of Bidenomics. But they shouldn't be. Because, despite some rebound in the economy since the COVID shutdown, Americans continue to struggle.

While the U.S. remains a wealthy country compared to others, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are "living 'paycheck to paycheck' these days" in the latest I&I/TIPP Poll, conducted from Jan. 3-5 from among 1,401 registered voters. The poll has a +/-2.6 percentage point margin of error.

This shocking result comes as some on Wall Street and many politicians applaud recent data showing solid growth in the fourth quarter, along with a slowing rate of inflation.

What's equally shocking is that the public's concern is bipartisan, with 63% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans, and 62% of independents saying they're just scraping by each payday.

Is Washington listening?

Interestingly, more than half of those in the wealthiest income bracket — those earning $75,000 or more a year (53%) — and those who are investors (51%), another relatively wealthy group, each said they're also having trouble making ends meet on a monthly basis. Those at lower incomes, defined as below $70,000 a year in income, averaged 68% saying they were having difficulty making ends meet.

The problem even seems to unite everyone by race, with 62% of white Americans and 69% of black and Hispanic Americans agreeing they're struggling financially each paycheck. No one's immune.

To shed further light on this little-discussed problem, the I&I/TIPP Poll asked a more specific question: "How much money do you have in savings that you could use in an emergency?"

The answers were then grouped by dollar value based on the individual responses as follows: "$0," "less than $1000," "$1,000 to $4,999," "$5,000 to $9,999," "$10,000 to $19,999," "$20,000 to $49,999," and "$50,000 or more." They could also respond "prefer not to answer."

Again, the answer is distressing: 24% of all Americans responded "$0."

Meanwhile, 20% answered less than $1,000, and yet another 14% said less than $5,000. A total of 44% had either zero or less than $1,000. The median savings amount, even after counting in the richest Americans, totaled just $1,586.

In short, economically speaking, Americans are ill-prepared for financial emergencies.

Here's another surprising set of data from the poll: Minorities (blacks/Hispanics) are more likely (75%) to have money put away for a rainy day than are whites (67%). And the main minority groups are less likely to have zero saved (20%) than whites (26%).

Moreover, the median held by minorities, $2,232, is well above the white median of $1,310.

By gender, women (33% no savings) are more likely to be savings-insecure than men (15%). Median savings for men totaled $5,291, compared to $573 for women. The gap is huge.

What does all this mean? Simple. Most Americans are having trouble making ends meet, living, as the poll put it, "paycheck to paycheck."

Which is surprising, since politicians continue to tell Americans they've never had it so good.

“Experts, from the time I got elected, were insisting that a recession was just around the corner. Every month, there was going to be a recession,” Biden said Saturday, laughing as he referenced the 3.3% GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

Biden has been aided by media reports, such as "This is the Best U.S. Economy Since the 1990s," and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman referring to our recent economic issues as a "Vibecession."

But as the data above show, Americans' pain is real, not a hipster "vibe." And the idea that the U.S. economy is doing fine is simply not the case. While overall growth has rebounded after the economy crashed 7.5% in 2022's second quarter, a post World War II record, Americans are still feeling inflation's pinch.

Since Biden's term began, overall inflation has risen 16.6%, sharply eroding Americans' purchasing power. In real terms, the average full-time wage worker took home about $373 a week during the first quarter of 2021, the last quarter Trump was in office. In the most recent federal data, the amount was $371.

So even after three years, working Americans are earning less in real terms than they did when Biden's term started.

It's no wonder Americans have so little money in the bank for emergencies. Because of Bidenflation, as it's been called, average working people are saving less than they did under Trump.

Food prices are up nearly a third since Biden took office, while gasoline prices have jumped 28.4%. Federal debt has soared, with interest now totalling close to $1 trillion a year, twice what it was just two years ago. All that money printed to pay debts is causing inflation and higher interest rates. This hurts those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder the most.

As recently highlighted, under Biden:

Inflation spiked to the highest level in over 40 years. Despite recent moderation, consumer prices are up nearly 18% overall during Biden’s time. Gasoline is up 29%.


Average weekly earnings haven’t kept pace with prices. After adjusting for inflation, 'real' weekly earnings declined 3.4%.

Even the fairly low unemployment rate of 3.7% has been called into question, as E.J. Antoni recently observed on TIPP Insights:

Depending on how one wants to measure the pre-pandemic trends in the labor market, the economy is effectively missing between 4.8 million and 6.8 million workers. Accounting for their absence yields a more accurate unemployment rate of between 6.4 and 7.5%, a range commonly found in recessions.

Moreover, as recently pointed out, personal savings rates jumped from 5.6% when Trump entered office to 12.8% when he left, a function of low inflation, low interest rates and solid wage growth. After Biden took over, even among those with jobs savings rates plunged from 12.8% to 3.7% currently.

This is why Americans are living hand to mouth. They have no financial cushion to protect them from economic shocks. Along with soaring crime rates and millions of illegals crossing into the U.S., this helps explain why Trump's MAGA has become popular even, among some Democrats.

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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