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Friday, February 01, 2013

About that 'liberal media' conspiracy to make the 2012 economy look better than it really was ...

    While the Dow is flirting again with 14,000 ...

    I think it is important to point out a few things about the unemployment report this morning - which showed another 157,000 jobs were created in January and the rate ticking up to 7.9 percent - particularly because there have been a ton of claims by some that the media has had an agenda.

    The revisions show that 2012 was better than originally believed, and that the stretch linking the end of the Bush era and the start of the Obama era was worse than what was reported at the time, meaning the hole was even deeper than we knew and the climb out would be more difficult than we realized. Not only that, why would the "liberal" media "make" things look worse before the 2012 election than they actually were? Let me give you a hint: We don't have that kind of power. We can't gin up the numbers. We do not control the data. We report the data then analyze and debate from there. Some people seem to want us to only report one way, and that is negatively.

       But that's not what we do. These numbers get revised after better, more complete data come in. That's just simply how this works. There is no agenda.

    Sometimes those revisions will show an improvement, sometimes they won't. And the same can be said of the 4th quarter GDP number, which initially came in at a negative 0.1 percent. It will be revised a couple more times and it could show that it was actually worse than that, or that the economy actually grew in the fourth quarter. We report and base analysis on the best available data, no matter what it says.

    This morning's report also showed that the overall number of government jobs - local, state, federal - fell every year during Obama's first term - which came on the heels of at least 5 straight years of growth in government jobs. If the government had simply remained the same size, the jobless rate would already be below 7 percent and approaching maybe 6.5 percent.

    Reducing the size of government and government spending do have a negative impact on the immediate economy. If you are in the camp that believes a short-term hit is the price we need to pay for longer-term gain through a smaller government, that's fine. Make that point, just don't deny that we can cut government immediately without an immediate hit on the economy.

    Maybe it is better to take a hit now because it might clear the way for better, healthier growth later. It's possible.

    It's also possible that if we have short-term government spending increases - like we did in '09 and created millions of jobs through the stimulus and added a few points to GDP - that it will help stabilize the deficit, which is also occurring according to the best data we have right now. And maybe that juice was enough and it is now time to let the economy go where it wants to, or maybe we need a little more juice.

    Either position can be argued based on sound reasoning and logic. You don't have to be a fool to believe either one.

    And this is something I haven't said in awhile but will repeat it now, even though most people seem to just ignore this. No president has control over our dynamic economy. It is too big, too broad and too complex to be controlled out of Washington, particularly by one man. That means that all the blame for the downturn can not be placed at the feet of President Bush, and all of the turnaround is not the result of President Obama.

    When things get really tough - as they did in 2008 into 2009 - the president can use his position to convince Congress to act. When we were in a nosedive in 2008, Bush helped pull us out by getting Congress to pass TARP, and in 2009, Obama extended that in a variety of ways, most notably through the stimulus. Those things should not be forgotten. 

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