On Voters’ Top Issues the US is Heading Backwards

Republican or Democrat, young or old it makes no difference – the most important issues in the upcoming election are the economy and terrorism. Sadly, there is real reason to be concerned. Simply put, ISIS is growing and the economy is not. And that creates a huge problem for a candidate like Hillary Clinton who has positioned herself as the defender of President Obama’s legacy.

The most recent Pew Research poll finds that the economy and terrorism are the two top issues for voters this fall. Among registered voters, 84 percent say that economic issues are “very important” to their vote in November, while 80 percent say terrorism is very important. The issues are similarly top-of-mind for young voters between the ages of 18 and 29, with 80 percent naming the economy and 68 percent naming terrorism as key voting cues.

Despite assurances from the Obama administration that the economy is humming and ISIS is in “decline,” the facts say differently. Earlier this week we learned that the U.S. economy grew at less than half the rate that economists predicted in the second quarter as businesses continued to unload their inventories and hold off on capital investments. The Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product grew at a glacial 1.2 percent annualized rate, which follows a disappointing 0.8 percent rate in the first quarter. Taken together, this is the weakest start to a year since 2011 (which isn’t saying all that much since the pace of this expansion has been the weakest—by far—of any since 1949). Alain Sherter reports for CBS News:

They are two of the scariest words in the English language, often heard as the engine room is starting to flood or the parachute fails to deploy: “Don’t panic.” And that was the message among economists trying to make sense of how it is, exactly, that the U.S. could be slowing, when most forecasters had expected it to be speeding up by now.

Time to lower the lifeboats? Not quite. But the economic seas are starting to look ominously rough.

… The trouble is that even avoiding another full-blown slump could still leave the economy adrift and searching for direction. That might mean no stomach-churning panic in the near-term, but plenty of fear about the storms to come.

Among the reasons for concern is the decline of business investment, which is pushing economic growth below 2 percent, which is considered “stall speed,” i.e. a lack of growth depressing investment and wages which ripples into plummeting consumer spending.

Sadly, we can’t report that ISIS’ growth has hit stall speed.

The White House is doing their level best best to put a happy face on their efforts to fight ISIS. President Obama, the day before the Paris attacks, boasted that “we have contained [ISIS] and “you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain.” Likewise, Secretary of State John Kerry recently told the press that the recent terrorist attacks show that ISIS “is under great, great pressure” and they are not “growing in their ability to do things.” Instead, he argued, “they are shrinking . . . they are on the run.”

But a recent map, prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center as part of a classified briefing document received by the White House and obtained by NBC News, shows ISIS is rapidly expanding its reach. William Arkin reports:

U.S. State Department documents indicated that in 2014, when the U.S. military began its campaign to destroy the extremists, there were only seven nations in which the fledgling state was operating…

The current briefing map shows 18 countries where ISIS is fully operational. The map also displays a new category — “aspiring branches” — and lists six countries where they’re taking root: Egypt, Indonesia, Mali, the Philippines, Somalia and Bangladesh.

None of this comes as good news for Hillary Clinton who has lashed herself to Obama’s legacy in hopes of mirroring his electoral success. But Obama’s promise of hope and change hasn’t worn well. Too many Americans continue to struggle, the result of an economy that hasn’t grown as fast as it should, and too many global threats are growing rather than abating, the natural outgrowth of the Obama Administration’s hasty decisions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Even Obama, in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, acknowledged that there is more work to be done. “We still have more work to do,” Obama said, “for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years.”

The problem for Clinton is that not many Americans have felt that progress.