The divergence between what the Obama campaign and the media (I repeat myself) are talking about (Bain, Bain and Bain) and the most important economic (and hence political) news of the year is breathtaking. To put it bluntly, we are looking at economic contraction. In laymen’s terms, that is a recession.
Sales at retail and food-service establishments dropped 0.5 percent in June from the prior month, the Commerce Department said, in contrast to the 0.2 percent gain that was expected.
That in turn has prompted a fresh wave of downgrades to already-lowered growth expectations for the second quarter. Pierpont Securities economist Stephen Stanley, for one, took his tracking estimate to just 0.6 percent after the report (combined with a somewhat firmer read on May business inventories).
“I am running out of room with regard to being above zero!,” he wrote in a note to clients.
For the left flogging the Bain story and the right bemoaning Mitt Romney’s response, stop. Just stop. You’re making fools of yourselves. If we are indeed heading for zero percent growth (and/or zero job gain-territory), there is no way that anything else matters. Obama can call Romney a criminal. The lefty bloggers can attack Congress (really, this is the formula for reelecting Obama?). But it will make no difference. None.
The old conventional wisdom was if that unemployment was below 8 percent on Election Day, Obama would win. I didn’t buy that, but it wasn’t nutty considering the depth of the recession. But now it is very likely the economy will get worse, not better, before the election. Obama’s going to win at more than 8.2 percent unemployment and no growth? I don’t think so.
The political media’s failure to grasp the import of the economic news is as embarrassing as Obama’s economic policy failure. Both expect the public can be bamboozled by rhetoric. Perhaps the media will catch on that what Romney says in July about what Obama is accusing him of is irrelevant. Right now they are acting as if the real world and the prospect of a literal recession (which would be two quarters of negative growth) is. As we approach zero percent growth, so do Obama’s chances of reelection. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.