Throughout the tumult of the elections last year political commentators were perplexed by a stubborn fact. The economy was performing splendidly, at least according to the standard measurements. Productivity and employment were up; inflation was under control. The World Economic Forum, in Switzerland, declared that the United States had regained its position as the most competitive economy on earth, after years of Japanese dominance.
The Clinton Administration waited expectantly, but the applause never came. Voters didn’t feel better, even though economists said they should. The economy as economists define it was booming, but the individuals who compose it–or a great many of them, at least–were not. President Bill Clinton actually sent his economic advisers on the road to persuade Americans that their experience was wrong and the indicators were right.