Will Trump or Biden help the US economy? Michigan voters weigh in

Metro Detroit voters have varying views of the current economic situation and which candidate they’d prefer guiding financial policy in the future.  

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump appear headed for a re-match in this year’s campaign for the White House. 

And surveys show one of the key issues Michigan voters will consider when they make their choice for president is who they believe will do best for the state and the national economy. 

Voters across metro Detroit have varying views of the current economic situation and which presidential candidate they’d prefer guiding financial policy in the future.  

In Macomb County, where voters swung between the GOP and Democrats in recent years, Salvation Army employee Jacob Dykla has a sense that the economy is driving voters away from Biden.

“I think Americans don’t like Biden, if you can blame inflation on him,” he said. “Things aren’t as ‘good’ as they were, quote – unquote, when Trump was running. Prices are higher. The only thing that’s affordable is gas right now. There is no middle class at this moment. It is either you are poor or you are rich. Things seemed to be better when Trump was running, not that I know he’ll come and make things better. Just that everyone I know lives paycheck to paycheck, unless you know somebody rich. We are in a crisis, it’s hard.”  

Listen: Michigan voters share thoughts on Biden, Trump ahead of 2024 presidential election

But Darrick Overton doesn’t see Trump as the answer.  

“I’ll take Biden any day over the lunacy that I see in Trump.” 

He says he has friends in the retail sector who claim there are lots of products available for sale. Overton believes prices are being artificially inflated. 

“We had supply chain issues during the pandemic. But I think what a lot of these manufacturers figured out is to slow the flow of products through the supply chain to keep prices higher,” Overton said. “The economy is doing well, as far as I’m concerned. Product is moving. I think they want the voting consumer to be unhappy as we approach the general election. People are working. You just have to manage your money, watch how you spend it out here, until they can get this inflation down and maybe wages up a little bit more. Rent is a serious issue.” 

Business owner Don Sterck says he’s in the marine industry and barely staying afloat financially. He blames the president’s economic agenda. 

“I don’t like what Biden’s done at all. Everything’s doubled. At least when Trump was in there, prices stayed the same. Gas was the same for four years. We need to start building our own stuff again. Put sanctions on China so at least if they’re sending stuff over here they got to pay just like we do over there. During the pandemic I had to wait for stuff to come in from China on the slow boat. And you’re just sitting there waiting. You could be doing jobs but you can’t get the parts.” 

Sterck says he has little hope the Biden administration’s push for a more domestically-based supply chain will fix those issues. But he thinks a reborn Trump administration might be able to. 

“I’m a business owner. So I’d rather see a business owner run. I don’t think a Democrat could run a business in America to save his life,” he said. “Because he can’t run a business in the red. You can’t keep not balancing the budget, you’ll be out of business. And that’s all they’re doing.” 

It’s balancing people’s personal budgets that bothers Karen Golembiewski. She says she’s a caregiver at a nursing home where financial problems concern residents as much as their physical ailments. 

“The seniors I take care of, it’s a damn shame what some of them go through. I hear a lot of sad stories because their social security don’t go up as much as the cost of living. I work in a home where it costs, like, $2,400 to $4,000 on average a week,” she said. “It’s just not right. They need to improve the health situation, make sure they get good insurance. I don’t care where you come from or what you got, nobody should have to suffer.”

Ride-share driver Mustafa Hussain says health affected his portion of the economy – specifically the COVID-19 pandemic. He says even after some offices re-opened and more people hit the roads once pandemic-related lock-downs were eased, his company did not increase the money they pay him per mile. 

“The prices are very cheap for us,” Hussain said. “To drive some trips from Detroit to Metro airport is about $15 for 25 miles. Before that we used to take the customer from here to the airport and it was $35-$45, which made sense for us to drive and afford the gas. To be honest, in Trump’s time everything was going up. But I can’t judge because when Biden came there’s a lot of challenges that came with him because of the coronavirus.” 

“My number one thing is bringing Americans back together. The staunch conservative right-wingers, which I don’t like, and the left-wing liberals, we got to get these people to start talking again.”

-Moses Yarsike, retired metro Detroit business owner

Retired business owner Moses Yarsike says Trump also had to deal with the advent of Covid. And Yarsike says the former president still managed to keep costs down for consumers while promoting his “America First” agenda. 

“I do like Trump’s values. I like what he stands for, I like a businessman. Do I like some of his tweets and some of his language? No, but that’s Trump. I liked the results,” Yarsike said. “I liked that for four years our economy was doing fantastic. Took a hit from COVID, which was a hell of a curveball for him. But I just think the country was rolling along great. I was in the food business my whole life. I still look at wholesale prices and I have never seen what’s going on now in this country. a lot of it because of inflation.” 

But Yarsike adds that the nation’s current bitter partisan divide is not helping the situation. 

“My number one thing is bringing Americans back together. The staunch conservative right-wingers, which I don’t like, and the left-wing liberals, we got to get these people to start talking again,” he said.

Social worker Melissa Marecki says she specializes in brokering conversations on difficult topics. And she says the economy can be an especially tough topic to tackle, though not so much in her own home. 

“I have a two-person dual income family, so we aren’t experiencing the hardship that I know a lot of other people are. But the kids I work with, there are a lot of high-risk families and stuff is definitely hitting a lot of people pretty hard.” 

But Marecki says she does not see Trump as the answer, no matter what background he has in business. 

“I really don’t see the appeal of Trump. Not a fan. I think he’s actually a terrible businessman. His bankruptcies, you can go on and on,” she said.  

Sterling Heights senior David Dobbs says he thinks Trump will have a better idea how to distribute federal funding than Biden. Especially, Dobbs says, when it comes to providing aid to foreign countries and immigrants arriving in the U.S. 

“All these people coming from other countries, they’re giving them everything. Our vets, they’re not giving them anything. They can get a government check, maybe,” Dobbs said. “Ukraine needs help, I understand that. But I believe you should do at home first. $80 million here, $80 billion there. We’re working our fannies off for that. And they’re taking our money that we earned with our blood and sweat and giving it to somebody. Granted, they are poor people and a poor country, but to continually give it to them on and on…”  

Dodge Park Coney Island owner Pashko Ujkha agrees there should be more emphasis on providing federal funding to domestic sources. But he questions if a Trump administration would do that any more than the Biden White House. 

Ujkha says between Biden’s age and Trump’s temperament, U.S. voters have a tough choice to make in November’s general election. 

“I don’t think either one of them is fit to be the next President of the United States. If I had to choose one or the other, I guess I would go with Biden because Trump doesn’t like to lose, so he’ll want to get even.” 

Ujkha says he fears Trump’s potential thirst for political vengeance would distract him from focusing on the U.S. economic situation. 

“We’re talking about our home here. Controlling the inflation, making sure that we don’t go through what we went through in the past as far as a financial crash,” he said. “Take care of our home and then we can look outside to help the neighbors. That’s our war here at home, the economy.” 

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  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.