July 29, 2011

GDP Media Coverage, Part 2: Time’s Error-Prone Embarrassment

This afternoon’s report at Time.com’s misnamed Curious Capitalist blog by Roya Wolverson (“GDP Report: What It Tells Us About the Debt”) is an embarrassing hash of omissions, errors, and gratuitous political points.

Ms. Wolverson’s most obvious omission is her failure to mention the government’s breathtaking downward revision to first quarter gross domestic product growth from the annualized 1.9% announced in late June to today’s revised 0.4%. That’s a nearly 80% hit compare to where we thought we were just a month ago, indicating how anemic the so-called recovery has been. It also gives one reason to doubt that today’s 1.3% figure for the second quarter will hold up in subsequent revisions.

What follows are excerpted paragraphs containing just some of Ms. Wolverson’s errors and political postures:

The bad news just keeps coming.

The U.S. economy grew even less than expected in the second quarter, at a rate of 1.3% [1], down from what many economists predicted would be 1.8% or higher [1]. The reasons for the continued lackluster performance haven’t changed. Consumers, squeezed by higher gas and other prices, are buying less of everything from electronics to meals out to new furniture. Japan’s tsunami, which raised production costs for U.S. auto makers, hasn’t helped.

Those factors are keeping a lid on U.S. jobs, which are, of course, the economy’s ticket to higher short-term growth.

But the dismal overall growth numbers masked some potentially good news for U.S. jobs. On the bright side, businesses spent more (up 6.3%) [2] in the second quarter, and in a rare move, investments in housing ticked up (3.8%). Those are crucial for U.S. job prospects, since the bulk of job creation comes from stifled small businesses, which rely most on a rebound in housing to invest and spend.

So far, small business hiring has been dragging for two reasons. One is because those businesses can’t get access to credit, and the other is because they’re reluctant to borrow given the slew of economic uncertainties ahead. [3]

… The good news out of the GDP numbers is, if housing investment continues to tick up and buoy property values, it will provide huge relief where the jobs market (via small banks and small businesses) needs it most.

… Another key takeaway from the Commerce Department’s GDP report is that much of the drag on growth in the second quarter came from government pullbacks. Government represented 1.23 percentage points of the overall growth drop [4], with state and local cuts accounting 0.41 percentage points of that and defense cuts making up 0.74 percentage points [4]. The sharp drop off in state and local government spending (a 3.4% drop) [5] reflects the dry up in federal stimulus, which has forced local authorities to slash tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in spending to comply with balanced-budget requirements.

The current debt debate is bound to make things worse. …

the very policymakers scrambling to make good on our obligations by slamming on the breaks (sic) are the ones threatening to escalate government debt. [6]


  • [1] — Throughout her report, Wolverson never gives any indication of an understanding that the figures presented are annualized. This will become clearer in a later note, but for now I’ll just note that any casual reader will believe that the economy actually got 1.3% bigger in the second quarter, instead of roughly 0.325% bigger.
  • [2] — Business spending went up an annualized 7.1%, not 6.3%, as seen in this cobbled-together graphic from Table 1 of the BEA’s full report. Wolverson’s 6.3% is the figure for nonresidential fixed investment.
  • [3] — Small business credit availability is hardly an issue when there’s little desire to hire or expand. Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts expressed current business sentiment perfectly earlier this month when he referred to the palpable “fear” and “fright” throughout the business community. The Obama administration, including the President himself, his cabinet, his czars, and his frontline regulators are primarily responsible for creating our Fear-Based Economy. There’s reason to believe that we are at the point where there is nothing they can do to mitigate that fear short of leaving the stage.
  • [4] — As shown here in this graphic assembled from Table 2, government spending’s contribution to second quarter GDP was -0.23 points, not -1.23 points. The -0.74 points she assigns to defense cutbacks occurred in the first quarter. Zheesh, babe; check your work.
  • [5] — As stated in Note [1], Wolverson seems to believe that state and local government spending really dropped 3.4% during the quarter, instead of by about 0.85%. It’s hard to see how an actual drop of less than 1% translates to “slash(ing) tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in spending.”
  • [6] — Soooooo predictably, we can’t stop spending or the world as we know it will end. It’s much closer to the truth that failure to stop spending for decades, most particularly in the past three years, is why the world as we know it is in danger of ending.

Really, Time, can’t anybody there play this game? Or could you at least make a couple of obviously needed corrections?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

TIB Broadcast Is Tonight

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 5:53 pm

I don’t tease it enough, but go here to listen live and here for the live blog. Participants will include yours truly and co-bloggers at Weapons of Mass Discussion Matt Hurley and Mark Garbett.

Topics will include, as would be expected, Ceiling Our Fate, the “newly-red” states, the tanking and downwardly revised POR/Fear-Based Economy, and other matters of sensible conservative interest.

GDP Media Coverage, Part 1: AP ‘Somehow’ Misses That the Economy Hasn’t Fully Recovered

This morning, Christopher Rugaber’s coverage of the news from Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis about the growth in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the Associated Press appropriately characterized it as indicative of a “sharp slowdown” and “extremely bad” (via a quoted economist).

Today’s report carried an advance estimate of second-quarter growth of an annualized 1.3%. As a result of revisions going all the way back to 2003, the BEA’s report also included a steeply reduction to 0.4% for the first quarter (down from the 1.9% reported last month), deeper contractions during the recession’s roughest quarters, and net slightly lower growth figures since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

The big story Rugaber missed — and which I suspect the rest of the media will also miss — is that two full years after the recession ended, the economy, based on today’s numbers, has not yet fully recovered, as seen in the following graphic (Source data: Table 3A at the BEA’s full report):


Today’s GDP Headline Should Be: Economy Has STILL Not Fully Recovered From Recession, No Matter How You Define It

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:09 am

Before today’s GDP revisions going back to 2003, it was thought that the economy had officially recovered from the recession — whether defined by normal people (two or more consecutive quarters of contraction, which began in the third quarter of 2008) or by the National Bureau of Economic Research (which pegs the beginning as December 2007).

Today’s net downward revisions to 2008, 2009, and 2010 show that a full recovery since, while close, has STILL not yet officially occurred — a full two years after the recession by both definitions ended in June 2009 (Source: BEA Table 3B here):


So not only in terms of employment, but even in terms of growth, we can still say “Rebound? What Rebound?”

Anyone can eyeball the numbers here and see that the economy under Ronald Reagan clearly recovered by the end of its third post-recession quarter.

The only thing Barack Obama’s economy has in common with Reagan’s is that it’s being presided over by a guy whose first name contains six letters.

2Q11 Gross Domestic Product (072911); An Annualized +1.3%; OMG, 1Q Written Down to +0.4%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:15 am

ReaganVsObama8QtrsDraft0711The graphic on the right (to be revised elsewhere, eventually) lists what happened during the first eight post-recession quarters under Ronald Reagan to what has reportedly happened during the first seven under Barack Obama. I can only tell those who are tiring of the Reagan comparisons being made here that Obama, his party and press apparatchiks continue to fraudulently compare him to Reagan and while fraudulently quoting and framing the Gipper. I’m certainly not going let up as long as that crap continues, especially because the contrast in what matters — i.e., results — is so stark.

The graphic shows that the during the first two years after the 1980s recession, the economy under Reagan expanded by almost 13%. If today’s second quarter GDP report from Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows growth at an annualized 1.5%, the economy during the first two post-recession years under Obama will have expanded by 5.3%, or barely 40% of the Reagan Era performance. The differential in the past four quarters has been even greater: 6.9% to 2.2%.

I say “has reportedly happened” about the current era’s numbers because today’s GDP report, in addition to revealing the government’s advance estimate of how much the economy grew during the second quarter, will also revise reported growth figures going all the way back to 2003. That should be interesting. The pre-revision figures going all the way back to 1980 are here.

It could provide a measure of revenge for those who insist that the recession really began in December of 2007 if the numbers for the first two quarters of 2008, currently at -0.7% and +0.6%, respectively, both go negative. But as long as they don’t go significantly negative, it will still be the case that a serious recession didn’t begin until the third quarter, the first full quarter of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, which actually began in late May or early June of 2008. It will also be interesting to see if the four quarters of POR Economy’s deep recession end up even worse than they already are, or just slightly less awful (3Q08, -4.0%; 4Q08, -6.8%; 1Q09, -4.9%; 2Q09, -0.7%), or, conceivably, if the second quarter of 2009 might have snuck into positive territory (which would have stunning implications).

As to second-quarter predictions:

  • Yesterday, the Associated Press’s 9:32 a.m. report on unemployment claims carried a prediction of an annualized 1.7%.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Goldman Sachs downgraded its second quarter prediction to an annualized 1.5%.
  • A group of “IFR” economists thinks we’ll see 2.3%, according to a video posted at Reuters.
  • At the Washington Post, Neil Irwin writes that Bloomberg’s consensus is 1.8%.

The report will appear here at 8:30 a.m.

8:35 a.m.I have an email saying that the number is 1.3%. I don’t see the announcement yet, but it may be my browser cache getting temperamental.

8:38 a.m. — Just opened a different browser program, and learned that the BEA server is overloaded.

8:41 p.m. — Ah, there it is (release; full text and tables), with a really, really big opening shock:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011, (that is, from the first quarter to the second quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.4 percent.

Boy, talk about “unexpectedly.” The 2003-forward revision I mentioned above just trashed the first quarter. Before the release, I meant to write that today’s report, if it disappointed, might have an impact on the direction of the debt-ceiling negotiations. They should, back in the direction of Cut, Cap, and Balance. They also give rumblin’-stumblin’-bumblin’-fumblin’ John Boehner a chance for a new determined start. Don’t blow it, John; this may be your last shot.

I’ll have much more later after reviewing today’s report and the comprehensive revision.

But for now, I can’t resist some snark: This isn’t anything a whole bunch of new tax increases can’t cure. (/sarc)

9:25 a.m.: Additional info will be in a new post (or posts) which is/are in the works. New post: “Today’s GDP Headline Should Be: Economy Has STILL Not Fully Recovered From Recession, No Matter How You Define It”

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Red States, Including the ‘Newly-Reds,’ Excel at Job Growth’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:10 am

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Sunday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.


The “newly-reds” are Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

This video from Ohio Governor Kasich tells more about the story of the Buckeye State.

Six words, guys: “Keep working hard,” and “Don’t get cocky.”


UPDATE: A look at the top seven job gainers in absolute numbers in May and June combined is also instructive.

Here is the list of the seven:


The three highlighted “newly-reds” added almost 32,000 jobs while the nation as a whole added 43,000 (yes, I know it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s still useful).

Florida’s gain is one of the best in the nation even on a percentage basis during those two months. The Sunshine State didn’t get off to a great start this year, but a few more months like May and June, and perhaps Florida will become a fourth successful member of the “newly-reds.” Florida would qualify as a newly-red because previous governor and ultimate RINO Charlie Crist switched from Republican to Independent late last year in a vain attempt to derail Marco Rubio. New GOP Governor Rick Scott has been getting the Walker-Kasich treatment, and has a lot of damage to undo. Thank goodness that’s beginning to happen.

The other interesting list member is Minnesota. It looks like the state wasn’t particularly disturbed by the prospect of a state shutdown. With Democrat Governor Mark Dayton in place, it doesn’t qualify as a newly-red, but it appears that the GOP legislature in the Gopher State (add that to the “words I thought I’d never type” list) is doing its part to rein in the public sector at least a bit, and that it is reaping rewards for doing so.

Positivity: Police officers turn to God in stressful job

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Omaha:

Jul 24, 2011 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Driving to the autopsy of an 8-month-old girl killed by her mother’s boyfriend, Omaha Police Sgt. Nicolas Yanez pulled over and prayed.

“I didn’t think I would make it,” Yanez said of feeling sad and overwhelmed. “Being the father of two daughters myself, it was difficult. I really had to pray: ‘why am I being put in this position?’ I decided God wanted me to do this job, and he would give me strength.”

That kind of prayer life sustains Yanez, a member of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue, and countless other police officers – Catholics and those of other faiths – in squad rooms in Omaha, Nebraska, across the archdiocese and around the country.

For many officers in the archdiocese it is a private faith practice, shared at critical times though not organized in any way. But it helps officers treat everyone – including suspects accused of horrendous crimes – with dignity and respect, Yanez said.

“Basically, it’s treating people the Christian way,” Yanez said. “You don’t want to abuse your authority. You don’t want to mistreat people. It doesn’t mean we’ll compromise our safety. But we can do it in a way that is not demeaning, and not brute force.”

Faith often is part of training police officers, said Brenda Urbanek, deputy director of training with the Nebraska Law Enforcement Center in Grand Island.

Studies indicate a strong faith helps people weather stressful situations and recover from them more quickly, she said. …

Go here for the rest of the story.