There’s been a lot in the news lately, what with riots raging in Baltimore and Iranian warships seizing vessels ostensibly under the protection of the United States Navy in the Strait of Hormuz and whatever the latest Hillary Clinton scandal might be, but we’re still surprised how little attention is being paid to the ongoing lousiness of the American economy.
All the latest numbers were just awful, with an anemic 0.2 percent growth rate in the gross domestic product last quarter being the most glaringly awful, and yet only obsessive sorts such as ourselves who pay attention to these things would have noticed. The Washington Post had a refreshingly frank assessment of the numbers, as well as a piece about how the weather might be responsible, and all the business pages had some mention of it buried underneath the headlines about the riots and Bruce Jenner’s sex-change plans, but it didn’t get the kind of coverage that provokes water-cooler conversations at your average American place of work. We’re old enough to remember a time when a 0.2 percent quarterly growth rate in the GDP would have had the news anchors breaking into prime-time programming to advise their listeners to hide the children in the cellar, and the tsk-tsking from the respectable press would have been deafening, so the current insouciance seems quite striking.
Most of that hubbub occurred during the occasional economic lulls of Republican administrations, and we suppose the past seven years of more consistently sluggish growth have so inured the public to such data during a Democratic administration that it’s no longer newsworthy, but the economy still seems the sort of thing that people should be talking about. The White House is saying it’s a mere blip due to the unusually cold weather that prevailed in some parts of the country last winter, and as the great Iowahawk points out it is also claiming that last year was the warmest on record, and the dreadful export numbers can be blamed on the global economy, which we’re now proud to say we have little effect on, and there’s always the argument that Republican majorities in Congress aren’t coughing up enough “investment,” although the trillions of debt that have been accumulated in the past seven years don’t seem to have yielded much return, so perhaps the press has its reasons for downplaying the bad news.
Sometime between now and the next presidential election people are bound to notice the persist lousiness of the American economy, however, and we can easily imagine what reasons the press might have for ignoring it even then. There’s no case to be made that the Democratic prescription of high taxes to pay for more spending to enforce more regulations has resulted in the economic growth needed to pay for the billions of dollars of failed social programs that have already been spent in Baltimore or the billions more need for naval power in the Strait of Hormuz or the slightly less exorbitant cost of Hillary Clinton’s lifestyle of the rich and famous, and there’s probably an Obamacare angle on that Bruce Jenner sex-change thing, and at this point the Republicans’ tired but true plan of letting free markets be free and spending the increased revenues on imposing some order on the rest of the world might starting sounding plausible. As far as the respectable press will be concerned, better to focus on income inequality and the stubborn reluctance of some religious types to enthusiastically embrace sex-change operations.
The income inequality schtick might not work so well coming from a candidate who’s been racking up six-figure speaking fees and seven-figure book deals and building up a billion-plus campaign fund from all sorts of one-percenters here and abroad, and the whole party of transgendered libertinism schtick might yet be a few years aways from electoral fruition, so that’s all the more reason to maintain the current complacency about the lousiness of the economy. Sometime between now and the next presidential election it’s bound to come up at the water cooler of your average American workplace, though, and it will be fun to see the obligatory coverage.
— Bud Norman