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Tue, Oct. 22

Economic reporters giving you the business

WASHINGTON – Until Election Day, President Bush's political foes were condemning what they called a jobless, slow-growing economy that John Kerry kept comparing to the Great Depression.

Despite Kerry's hyperbole, the U.S. economy was in a full recovery. The month before voters went to the polls, businesses reported that they had added 303,000 new jobs to their payrolls, though the government's October jobs report came a few days after the election.

Since then, just about all the salient economic numbers have been up, and the Massachusetts liberal has all but disappeared from the major political arena, his dismal economic rhetoric, in retrospect, looking pretty foolish. Unemployment continues to fall, economic growth is up, the Dow has staged an overall comeback (despite the usual week-to-week fluctuations), consumer confidence has risen and Bush's job approval score is up at 53 percent, according to the Gallup Poll.

It turns out that Bush's tax cuts, roundly condemned by the Democrats, were just the right medicine after all.

Unfortunately, while the war against Bush's economic policies ended on the campaign front, at least temporarily, national news media bashing of the economy continues. It can be seen in the news pages and much of the daily reporting from Wall Street, despite the post-election rally in the financial markets and economic growth numbers that any of our trading partners would be proud to have.

Adjectives such as "mediocre," "lackluster," "weak" or "sluggish" are still being used in business reporting to describe an economy that is growing at about 4 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's third-quarter revision of the Gross Domestic Product.

Since when is 4 percent GDP growth mediocre? The European Union is barely achieving 1 to 2 percent. The Japanese would be dancing in the streets if their economy was performing at our level.

Here at home, retail sales have been rising, the technology sector is in a comeback, with Intel forecasting higher revenues, industrial activity is up, oil prices (as I'm writing this column) have fallen precipitously since the Energy Department reported that inventories were much higher than expected, and government officials tell me that higher incoming tax revenues are reducing the federal budget deficit.

In just the past year alone, more than 2 million new payroll jobs have been added to the labor force. Hardly a number that should produce the post-election hand-wringing we're still seeing.

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