Brian Wesbury in the WSJ: 'The Economy Is Fine (Really)'
I have referred to Mr. Wesbury's work frequently. That's because he has been, as he is today, a sober voice standing up to Old Media-driven economic hysteria with those stubborn things known as facts.
Wesbury first caught my attention when he expressed alarm in late 2005 that 43% of the country thought we were in a recession -- not about to go into one, actually in one. That same poll metric reads 35% today.
There wasn't a recession then, and odds are, as Wesbury notes, we're not near one now.
Here are some snips from his Wall Street Journal column today, making a number of points about the current economy, and reminding us that inflation has not been relegated to irrelevancy. He doesn't extensively call out Old Media's gloomy economic coverage, but I don't doubt for a minute that he considers it a major negative factor (bolds are mine):
It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.
..... housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.
..... incomes rose 3.9% faster than inflation in the year through September.
..... the over-reaction to very spotty negative news is astounding. For example, Intel's earnings disappointed, creating a great deal of fear about technology. Lost in the pessimism is the fact that 20 out of 24 S&P 500 technology companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten Wall Street estimates.
Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.
..... What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations.
..... The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year and it's the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.
The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch.
I'm guessing that Wesbury's 1.5% estimate for fourth quarter GDP growth is low -- possibly very low. We'll find out Wednesday morning at 8:30. If the news is better than expected, we'll get to see how Old Media spins its way into "but it's bad now" mode.
Cross-posted, with minor revisions, at BizzyBlog.com.