The economy needs a Cheerleader-in-Chief

morning in america reagan

America is near full employment with 14 million jobs added since early 2010. Gas prices are cheap. Home prices are rising. The stock market is near record highs. And the economy has grown ... for seven years.

So why does everyone think the economy stinks?

In a recent AP poll, 54% of respondents described the economy as "poor." In a new CNNMoney/E*Trade survey, a majority graded the economy as a "C" — or worse. In Gallup's weekly survey, 60% of Americans said the economy was "getting worse," the poorest rating given this year, and the worse since last August.

"The nation seems to be wallowing in a degree of economic pessimism," said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic think tank.

The conventional explanation for this disconnect is that the benefits of the economic recovery have not been evenly distributed. The gains have gone to the rich, while those in the Middle Class face stagnant wages.

Related: Americans' confidence in economy at 2016 low

Another issue is that there is a difference between perception and reality. Often people will tell pollsters they don't think the economy is performing well, but when questioned on their own personal financial situation, the story can be almost the opposite.

When Gallup asked in January whether an individual's personal financial condition was better than it was a year ago, nearly half -- 47% -- said that it was. That was the highest level since before the economy collapsed in 2008. A recent AP poll found that 65% of those surveyed described the financial situation of their household as "good."

"When people are looking at their own personal financial situation, they're no longer worried about losing their jobs," says Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "Nothing makes you feel better about things than the comfort that you're likely to have your job tomorrow. "

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Even wages are finally beginning to grow.

Robert Shapiro, a long-time economic adviser to Democratic candidates, says overall Census wage data paints a grim picture because it includes earnings from students aged 15 all the way to retirees.

Incomes grew much faster for the nation's workforce at its prime age between 25 and 59 years. "There's no doubt if you actually delve into the data, the income of the majority of Americans went up at a pretty healthy rate in 2013 and 2014," Shapiro said.

Related: Wall Street bank says U.S. unemployment higher than government report

What can be done to get everyone feeling better about the U.S. economy? Some think it needs a cheerleader.

There is no one proclaiming that it might again be "Morning In America," as Ronald Reagan did so effectively in 1984 as the country was emerging from an equally disastrous recession.

"There certainly is no champion," says Douglas Holtz-Eakin , former economic advisor to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "I agree 100% with that."

The Republicans go out of their way to be critical of the economy's performance. Recently, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz warned of a looming market crash.

President Obama recently theorized to The New York Times that "how people feel about the economy," is influenced by "what they hear." He went on: "And if you have a political party — in this case, the Republicans — that denies any progress and is constantly channeling to their base, which is sizable, say, 40% of the population, that things are terrible all the time, then people will start absorbing that."

But if Republicans are trashing the economy, Democrats also are reluctant to give it much respect.

Bernie Sanders often complains about a "rigged economy where the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer." Elizabeth Warren, who is hugely popular among Democrats, recently wrote an Op-Ed for that flatly stated that "America's middle class is starting to crumble."

Related: How I went from middle class to homeless

Hillary Clinton, seeking to win over Sanders' supporters, seems hesitant to praise the economic status quo, despite the improving economic news. In her victory speech Tuesday night, Clinton made no mention of recent economic gains.

Instead, she highlighted the story of a middle class nurse from Connecticut whose medical bills and loss of sick time due to breast cancer may cause her to lose her home -- the type of economic tragedy that Obamacare was supposed to, and probably has, diminished.

It's understandable that politicians want to be cautious. For all the gains, it's also true that wide swaths of the population are struggling. Many have dropped out of the workforce. People who want full time jobs are stuck with part-time hours. U.S. manufacturing will never be the powerhouse it once was -- there are 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs than in 2000.

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Politicians don't want to seem out of touch.

"Politicians have learned from the experience of George Herbert Walker Bush," says Naroff, referencing the 1992 election. "He went around saying things were not that bad. He was correct. Things were a lot better than everybody perceived. But (Bill) Clinton said, 'you're clueless' and he lost the election."

President Obama himself sounds barely enthusiastic when he talks about the U.S. economy. In a recent radio address, he said the economy had "changed to the point where even when folks have jobs; even when the economy is growing; it's harder for hardworking families to pull themselves out of poverty, harder for young people to start out on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to."

Hardly a Muhammed Ali-type boast about the economy.

Related: Americans give the economy a "C" grade

"Talking up the economy is very important and President Obama does it in a very tepid way," says Karlyn Bowman, who studies public attitudes at AEI, a center-right think tank in Washington.

She is quick to add, however, that the public is still so shell-shocked from the near collapse of the economy in 2008, that statements on how good things are going might fall on deaf ears. "People aren't there yet," she says.

Some pro-Democratic analysts say the national conversation about the economy would be different if the roles of the political parties were reversed amid the same kind of economic news the country is hearing now. "... just imagine the boasting we'd be hearing if Mitt Romney occupied the White House," liberal columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote.

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