“After a spring and summer of weak economic indicators, a flurry of fresh data suggest key sectors of the economy might be gaining traction, just as the battle for the White House enters the final round,” Zachary A. Goldfarb & Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post.
In some sectors of the media, it begins to seem that "the economy" is not so much the aggregate of all the things we do in the way of getting and spending as it is a large, imponderable, mercurial force. Sort of like a hurricane.
We know that it is out there and that it a powerful thing. But we don't know exactly which way it is headed or how fast it is going or when it will make landfall. Economy watching has come to resemble what the Weather Channel does with hurricane watching, where it sends some dauntless reporter, dressed in a North Face parka, down to a beach where he stands in the rain, with the whitecaps breaking in the background, talking pointlessly about wind speeds and landfalls. In the case of economy watching, we get insights like this:
"The better the economy between now and November, the better it is for Democrats and Obama,” said Ray C. Fair, a Yale University professor who studies the relationship between economics and electoral outcomes.
No kidding. Who knew?
And, then, there is the Jim Santori of economy watching, Mr. Mark Zandi, himself, who supplies this:
“The national psyche remains on edge, and the economy remains vulnerable to anything else that may go wrong."
Okay, one thinks, they don't have any idea. Nobody does. Least of all the people who claim to, as for instance, President Obama's crack economic team that went out into the eye of the recession and delivered a report establishing conclusively that without their economic stimulus plan, unemployment would rise to more than 10 percent. But with the plan, it would be held to under 8 percent. The plan was implemented and unemployment promptly rose to more than 8 percent where it has stayed ever since. In fact, according to the most recent BLS jobs statistics:
“Not only is the 8.3% unemployment rate way above the 5.6% unemployment rate that Team Obama predicted for July 2012 if Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus plan. It’s way above the 6.0% unemployment rate they predicted if no stimulus was passed.”
So now, Obama supporters scan the horizon for signs that the economy is improving enough to carry them to victory ... with a big assist from the "Romney killed my wife" ads. If things do improve that much ... well, then Obama and his experts will take credit for shrewd stewardship of "the economy."
If not, they will have a handy alibi. Namely, that it was the temperamental, unpredictable economy and nothing anybody could do. No more than anyone could change the course of Hurricane Penelope as it bears down on the mainland.