Robert Samuelson Thinks the Economy is Doing Just Great

The reason some of us note that Robert Samuelson is not a relative of Paul Samuelson has to do with his tendency to write this kind of nonsense:

The specter of depression stalks America.

I have heard lots of talk about whether we are in a recession but none of what I have seen says we are reliving the 1930’s. This opening is akin to seeing a friend involved in a bad car accident and saying – “see you’re not dead, so cheer up”. Samuelson continues:

In June, unemployment was 5.5 percent, slightly below the average since 1960 of 5.8 percent … As yet, the present economic slowdown does not even approach the harshest post-World War II slump. The back-to-back recessions of 1980 and 1981-82 (as dated by the National Bureau of Economic Research) constituted, for most people, one prolonged downturn. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent in late 1982.

Oh good grief. At the risk of repeating myself, no one is saying that 2008 is as bad as 1982. OK, my friend neither died in the car accident nor he was paralyzed for life – just several broken bones – so Samuelson would tell him to cheer up and walk it off. And this average unemployment rate over the past 50 years or whatever is the standard GOP talking point whenever economists note that the employment to population ratio has declined. It is nice to see that Samuelson would rather rehash discredited GOP spin than inform his readers. Then again, Samuelson has to include this:

The paradoxical thing about today’s economy is its strength. No kidding. Consider all the hand grenades lobbed at it. Higher oil prices. The housing implosion. Large layoffs in affected industries: autos, airlines, construction, mortgage banking. The “credit squeeze” triggered by losses on “subprime” mortgages. Despite all that, the economy hasn’t collapsed. It’s merely weakened. Output in the first quarter of 2008 was actually 2.5 percent higher than a year earlier.

It is true that growth rates were decent for 2007QII and 2007QIII but that followed weak growth rates for the previous three quarters and was followed by weak growth rates for the next two quarters. But hey – as long as Robert Samuelson can cherry pick some spin for the GOP, we should all be very happy. So stop your whining!