President George W. Bush is doing a lousy job steering the U.S. economy -- or, Bush is doing an excellent job -- depending whether you ask Christian Weller or Jack Burkman, both of whom joined "Power Lunch" to dissect the president's economic record.
Burkman, an attorney and a Republican strategist, told CNBC's Sue Herera he believes that America's economy is in great shape. He pointed out that more than 50% of Americans own equities, and that Americans who own property hold "hundreds of thousands of net worth."
So why do certain indicators -- such as the most recent Newsweek poll -- hint that a growing number of Americans disapprove of Bush's leadership? Burkman ascribes it partly to the "establishment media" and a "hyper-focus" on Iraq. The GOP strategist eschewed the strategic issues of the Persian Gulf war, sticking to the financial: he called comparisons to the Vietnam conflict "fallacious," as the U.S. economy of the 1960s was utterly different from that of the present.
But Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, warned of the "flip-side of a debt boom." He pointed to companies cutting health insurance as proof of pressure on blue-collar and middle-class families. Weller said that lately, credit-card debt -- a mark of discretionary consumer spending -- has been flat, and claimed that most people are borrowing money to make ends meet, rather than to invest. He asked rhetorically, "If everything is so hunky-dory, why are people borrowing so much?"
Burkman maintains middle-class savings are down due to greater investment, and blamed an "age of massive negativity" on the "American left 'demagoguing' the issues."
According to a poll by RasmussenReports.com, 42% of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling the presidency; 56% disapprove. Compare that to the Gallup poll of mid-April 2003, when Bush stood at a 71% approval rating -- as the freshly-toppled statuary of Saddam Hussein seemed to signify a quick end to the Iraq war.