“NO ONE expects rising unemployment claims! Their two main weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency!”
— John Hayward of Human Events on Twitter.
Back in April, Michael Barone attempted to unpack the media’s “unexpected” case of Oba-amnesia in the Washington Examiner. As he wrote, “Pro-Obama media always shocked by bad economic news:”
As Instapundit reader Gordon Stewart, quoted by Reynolds on May 17, put it, “How many times in a row can something happen unexpectedly before the experts start to, you know, expect it? At some point, shouldn’t they be required to state the foundation for their expectations?”
One answer is that many in the mainstream media have been cheerleading for Barack Obama. They and he both naturally hope for a strong economic recovery. After all, Obama can’t keep blaming the economic doldrums on George W. Bush forever.
I’m confident that any comparison of economic coverage in the Bush years and the coverage now would show far fewer variants of the word “unexpectedly” in stories suggesting economic doldrums.
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.
A less cynical explanation is that many journalists really believe that the Obama administration’s policies are likely to improve the economy. Certainly that has been the expectation as well as the hope of administration policymakers.
Obama’s first Council of Economics Advisers chairman, Christina Romer, whose scholarly work is widely respected, famously predicted that the February 2009 stimulus package would hold unemployment below 8 percent. She undoubtedly believed that at the time; she is too smart to have made a prediction whose failure to come true would prove politically embarrassing.
But unemployment zoomed to 10 percent instead and is still at 9 percent. Political pundits sympathetic to the administration have been speculating whether the president can win re-election if it stays above the 8 percent mark it was never supposed to reach.
Read the whole thing, if you missed back in May. As we noted the following month, the current climate of business uncertainty was also one of the reasons why FDR made the Depression a “Great” one. Today at Power Line, Steve Hayward quotes from disillusioned former FDR speechwriter Raymond Moley’s 1939 memoirs, After Seven Years:
The first [of FDR’s mistakes] centered in a failure to understand what is called, for lack of a better term, business confidence. Confidence consists, on the one side, of belief in the prospect of profits and, on the other, in the willingness to take risks, to venture money. . .
This Roosevelt refused to recognize. In fact, the term “confidence” became, as time went on, the most irritating of all symbols to him. He had the habit of repelling the suggestion that he was impairing confidence the public had lost in business leadership . . . For one thing, the confusion of the administration’s utility, shipping, railroad, and housing policies had discouraged the small individual investor. For another, the administration’s taxes on corporate surpluses and capital gains, suggesting, as they did, the belief that a recovery based upon capital investment is unsound, discouraged the expansion of producers’ capital equipment.
For another, the administration’s failure to see the narrow margin of profit on which business success rests—a failure expressed in an emphasis on prices while the effects of increases in operating costs were overlooked—laid a heavy hand upon business prospects. For another, the calling of names in political speeches and the vague, veiled threats of punitive action all tore the fragile texture of credit and confidence upon which the very existence of business depends.
So where’s the end point? A devastating new video by the Workforce Fairness Institute highlights where President tried and true, time-tested economic techniques and FDR-era worldview inexorably — if “unexpectedly” — lead: