The New York Times carried this nauseating headline on Tuesday: “Obama's Puzzle: Economy Rarely Better, Approval Rarely Worse.” Times reporter Jackie Calmes found “never during his time in office has the state of the economy been better — yet rarely has he gotten such low marks from the public for his handling of it.”
An accompanying chart shows Obama under 40 percent approval on the economy, but the actual number never appeared in the story.
Calmes negotiates around it. “Mr. Obama’s ratings for his handling of the economy, never high since his first months in office, slipped throughout 2013 in national polls. As he began this year, nearly six in 10 Americans disapproved, nearly matching his lowest marks in 2011, a year of repeated and damaging fiscal fights with the new Republican House majority.”
As for the economy, everything is roses, as even the shrinking labor force is spun as the beginning of baby-boomer retirements:
Demand for labor is up and the unemployment rate is below 7 percent for the first time since November 2008. Consumers, buoyed by rising home prices and stock values, are spending more; so are businesses. Exports are growing as Europe regains health. The fiscal drag from state and federal spending cuts has abated. And contrary to Republicans’ claims, many forecasters do not see the health care law as “a job-killer.”
Economically speaking, said Scott A. Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, “the state of the union is the best we have seen in years.”
The headline on Anderson’s press release was even gauzier: “Goodbye Desolation: U.S. Economy Poised for Blockbuster 2014".
Naturally, Calmes found Democrats are “running scared,” but that’s unfortunate since the economic slowness can be blamed on the Republicans for their obsession with spending restraint:
Despite Republicans’ generally worse image problems, the same nonpartisan polls show that on the question of which party is better able to deal with the economy, Republicans have recouped the public favor that they lost in the Bush years.
The frustration for Democrats is that many economists and business forecasters fault Republicans in Congress for retarding the recovery since 2010 by forcing Democrats to accept deep spending cuts, by opposing spending for job-creating infrastructure projects that Mr. Obama has proposed and, especially, by threatening a default with the party’s resistance to increasing the nation’s statutory borrowing limit.
“I regard the spending cuts of the last several years as just mad,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “It delayed what would otherwise have been a quicker recovery.” The shift away from austerity, as reflected in Republicans’ agreement last month to a budget deal that undid some of the across-the-board spending reductions known as sequestration, “is going to be hugely helpful,” he said.
Other forecasters were also encouraged by that bipartisan budget deal. In recent analyses for business clients, a number of forecasters concluded that Republican leaders had reasserted control over Tea Party members since the federal government shutdown last fall, which was politically disastrous for the party.
It doesn’t look very “disastrous” at this point, does it?