Jeff Michaels: Concerned About America’s Economy

"We have spending that is essentially recession or depression-level spending, and neither administration has seemed willing to address those issues."
By | Apr 17, 2024
JPVP 2024
Jeff Michaels

This interview is part of Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project. To learn more about the project, click here. To see our other participants, click here. To see all posts from Jeff, click here.

Age: 54
Occupation: Hedge-fund portfolio manager

Location: Mountain Lakes, NJ
Party Registration: Independent
Jewish Denomination: Conservative
Current 2024 Vote: Joe Biden
2020 Vote: Joe Biden
Family: Married; seven children
News Sources:
The New York Times, Bloomberg, X (formerly Twitter)

What issues are you hearing about in your community?

I live in a community that’s probably split down the middle in terms of passions, and I think each side is equally passionate. I tend to be more concerned with social issues. They take a priority even if financially I would take a hit. It’s well worth it to have a democracy and have rights for everybody. I’m definitely seeing that view across my community. More broadly, I think abortion is a big issue. I happen to have a transgender child so I think that’s a big issue. It more cements me toward a Democratic vote, even though I am not particularly fond of the economic agenda of either a Trump or Biden administration. I think neither of them have been concerned about the financial well-being of the country in terms of making sacrifices necessary to at least cut spending. Right now we have spending that is essentially recession or depression-level spending, and neither administration has seemed willing to address those issues. 

Do you support Biden because of his record or because he’s “not Trump”? 

Biden is a good candidate because he tapers some of the extremes of his own party. That’s not the case on the Republican side. Biden does a good job of at least trying not to appease every faction of his party. He’s not the perfect candidate at all, whether it’s age or just making the needed sacrifices. I don’t think forgiving student loans is something that they need to do without fixing the student-loan problem overall. It benefits schools that have no skin in the game. I would prefer more centrist Democratic candidates. Unfortunately both parties are more extreme, but Biden has done a good job of least steering towards the middle. 

Do you think Biden has done a good job of selling his administration’s achievements? 

That’s a tough one. Presidents take credit for things that were probably going to happen anyway. Obviously the economy has recovered nicely from COVID-19. Some of that was due to stimulus. So he takes some credit for that, as he should. Inflation is coming down. Again it’s a similar situation—he can take some credit. On infrastructure, we’ll see what gets done. I think in general, if you’re building productive things, I’m a fan. If you’re building unproductive things, I’m not a fan. We have a record in this country of doing a combination of both. For example, I’m not really a big fan of high-speed rail. Not that I’m anti-environment. I just think if you build it, that doesn’t mean people will use it. And as we’ve seen with Amtrak, only the Acela line makes money. So, again, I’m always leery when people invest in infrastructure because it’s got to be infrastructure that’s productive. 

How do you rate Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas-Gaza crisis? 

He’s probably straddled the line. Obviously he wants to be empathetic toward innocent people caught in the crossfire. He wants Israel to be empathetic to that, but at the same time, he’s let Israel do what they feel they need to do to protect themselves. I could see people wanting a more aggressive response and blindly supporting Israel and not being empathetic towards Palestine at all, which I think would probably be the wrong response. It’s a complex situation. I don’t think anybody can get this one right from over here. It’s really not our battle but we are an ally of Israel and support them. I think it’s hard for us to not let a country that’s surrounded by that many enemies defend themselves. 

What is your overall assessment of the political landscape as you can see it in your area now? Are you confident the presidential election will be a true measure of popular support for whoever wins? 

There won’t be a controversy in terms of who wins. But there’ll be a controversy again, just because of the way we tabulate votes by state. There’s no doubt that Biden will win the popular vote. But again, I don’t know what that means in terms of the Electoral College vote.

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