The media have been quick to paint the slow-growing economy as though it's in recession. Indeed, as our friends at the Business & Media Institute discovered, the MSM now is painting the economy much worse than the print media reported the 1929 stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression.
But kudos are due U.S. News & World Report's Rick Newman for staking out a contrarian stand.
In his May 27 piece, "Why Consumers Are Underconfident," Newman lists five reasons why consumers are overly pessimistic and hence consumer confidence numbers misleading as far as being an accurate barometer of the economy. Here's an excerpt including one of those reasons, "the freak-out factor":
It doesn't add up. American consumers see gloom all around, with new consumer confidence numbers that are the worst since 1992. In other words, the economy is ailing worse than it was after 9/11, or after the tech bubble and stock market run-up that came crashing down early in 2001.
This, even though it's not clear we're even in a recession. Sure, quibbling over whether economic growth is positive or negative doesn't help anybody fill the tank or put food on the table, but overall, the economy isn't nearly as sick as consumers seem to think. Unemployment is a relatively low 5 percent, and some important indicators have recently turned from negative to positive. Some possible reasons why consumers feel more depressed than conditions warrant:
The freak-out factor. The standout features of today's economy tend to be pocketbook issues that consumers confront every day. Exhibits A and B are soaring gas and food prices, which hit a very tender lobe in consumer psychology. Each of those things alone represents a fairly small portion of the overall economy, but to many consumers they're a proxy for the whole economy going down the drain. Which it's not.
For the full item in Newman's Flow Chart blog, check here.