26 September 2014

GDP Grew 4.6% in 2nd Quarter (Politicians and Media, Committed to Bad News, Look the Other Way)

The final estimate is that the GDP grew by 4.6% in the 2nd Quarter of this year, according to today's report from the Department of Commerce.

Consumer spending on durable goods (things like cars and refrigerators) and business investment were up 14.1% and 9.7%. Consumers spending more on purchases that could be deferred demonstrates that they are feeling more confident about the economy, as does businesses spending more to invest in the future.

It's not just the best quarter since 2011. It matches the best quarter since before 2007.

But you won't hear much about it. Not on the news, not from politicians. It is in no one's interest to present positive news. A reporter on Bloomberg said, "There's no reason to look at GDP growth today." Other news outlets, apparently agreeing, simply failed to mention it in their top of the hour reports.

The Obama administration is still pushing for programs that would create more jobs and raise median income. To say that things are going great makes it harder to argue for those programs.

The Republicans move blithely from one irrelevant and bone-headed argument to the next, whether it's invading the Middle East or paying for two wars with a tax cut or screaming about how huge deficits during the Great Recession are going to blow up the economy or how Obamacare is going to create huge deficits and blow up the economy.They repeatedly show themselves completely tone deaf on policy and - sadly - in tune on politics, managing to win the attention of media and voters without ever actually being right about anything of substance.

Liberals think it's awful that the GDP is growing because corporate profits are going up and it is only the rich who are getting richer. So for them, the economy actually sucks and numbers to the contrary are misleading. Misery still exists and they'll focus on it. Liberals fail to see the humor in Woody Allen's quip, "I can't enjoy a meal as long as I know that someone, somewhere is starving."

Conservatives think it's awful that the GDP is growing because it suggests that Obama's and the Fed's policies might actually be sensible rather than disastrous. Today's most influential conservatives are ideologues who think that pragmatism is the worst kind of betrayal and wouldn't admit that government policies could have any positive impact even if the fastest growing economy of the last quarter century was communist.

The media think it's best to ignore mention that the GDP is growing robustly because it undercuts an incredibly lucrative narrative that brings up ratings. Whether they're trying to get ratings from liberals outraged at how only the 1% are benefiting from this recovery or from conservatives who are clinging tightly to their belief that the world is getting worse and has been since Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden, and that any proof to the contrary is either fabricated or fleeting. Bad news is good news for news outlets. People stay tuned for news about hurricanes, not 70 degree weather.

It's an odd time. Never has technology and business innovation offered more potential and yet rarely have people been so gloomy about the future. If a huge swath of us get wiped out by Ebola, we'll look back chagrined at what petty things we whined about. If - as I think - we'll hit an inflection point that makes us more prosperous and privileged than any previous generation has dreamed about, then we'll look back chagrined at how incredibly pessimistic we were at the dawn of this change. In either case, the committed pessimism strikes me as absurd and increasingly takes a commitment to denial that hopefully fewer and fewer people will be able to muster.

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