Along with today's news that President Obama's poll numbers are slipping on health care and the economy, we also get a report from Gallup's Frank Newport on the "new normal"--a trend wherein Americans accept the dismal economic present as norm.
The term specifically applies to consumer spending. Americans are spending less and plan to continue spending at those levels in the future, Gallup reported today, as it has reported before. About a third of Americans, 32 percent, say they are spending less now and expect to make their present habits a "new normal" of their future budgetings.
One can't help but wonder if the "new normal" has political ramifications. The economy's relationship with Obama's approval/favorability ratings has loomed as a macro question over his presidency: how long can he stay so popular without a significant recovery? Will it harm his ability to pass health care, energy, and education reform, the three pillars of his domestic platform? It's a question of public expectations, and the "new normal" is, explicitly, a phenomenon of the same category.
The new normal trend suggests two things: lowered expectations for economic activity, and a climate of frugality.
The personal fiscal restraint ushered in by the economic downturn has accompanied a trend of fiscal conservatism, nationally, according to the Post/ABC numbers: 55 percent of Americans now favor holding the deficit in check over new spending as an economic fix, a shift from January, the Post tells us, when a slim majority favored spending. 43 percent approve of Obama's handling of the deficit, while, 49 percent disapprove.