Michael Barone elaborates on Glenn Reynolds’ theme: why is it that after two years, bad economic news is still “unexpected?”

As megablogger Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has noted with amusement, the word “unexpectedly” or variants thereon keep cropping up in mainstream media stories about the economy.
“New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed,” reported CNBC.com May 25.
“Personal consumption fell,” Business Insider reported the same day, “when it was expected to rise.”
“Durable goods declined 3.6 percent last month,” Reuters reported May 25, “worse than economists’ expectations.”
“Previously owned home sales unexpectedly fall,” headlined Bloomberg News May 19.
“U.S. home construction fell unexpectedly in April,” wrote the Wall Street Journal May 18.
Those examples are all from the last two weeks. Reynolds has been linking to similar items since October 2009.

Barone lays part of the blame, at least, on the fact that legacy media are cheerleading for the Obama administration:

It’s obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists — the president’s re-election — if the economic slump continues. So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there’s still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover’s phrase, prosperity is just around the corner.

I think that is correct. Nowadays, agenda-driven journalism is about the only kind we have.

Obama and his policymakers told the country that we would recover from the deep recession by vastly increasing government spending and borrowing. We did that with the stimulus package, with the budget passed in 2009 back when congressional Democrats actually voted on budgets, and with the vast increases scheduled to come (despite the administration’s gaming of the Congressional Budget Office scoring process) from Obamacare.
All of this has inspired something like a hiring strike among entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Employers aren’t creating any more jobs than they were during the darkest days of the recession; unemployment has dropped slowly because they just aren’t laying off as many employees as they did then.

Do you remember when Democrats accused Presidential candidate George W. Bush of “talking down the economy”? It was a silly charge then, and journalists’ efforts to “talk up the economy” today are likely to be equally ineffective. Irrational exuberance is not as easy to generate as some journalists may have believed.


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