If you are a Polipundit reader who regularly reads Jayson Javitz then you know that the economy is in good shape. Why, then, do most Americans not realize this? (Besides the fact that not enough of them read Polipundit, that is.)
I remember going through this same thing in 1992 when the Bush recovery was described as the worst economy in 50 years until the day after the election, when it became known as the Clinton recovery. It frustrated the heck out of me then, and although it does less so now because this is not an election year, it still annoys me. I placed the blame for the public’s ignorance on the media. I sometimes wonder how the mainstream media is still in business (not just in decline) after continually doing such a pathetic job keeping their readers informed.
Pat Hynes also identifies the problem of the media filter, but also points to several bad news stories including high gas prices, and the President’s selling of a social security crisis. He also rightly, and most prominently, lays blame on the President for not making the case for today’s economic good news strongly enough.
To be sure, a series of high-profile and highly symbolic economic hardships have trumped the overall good news about the economy. Layoffs at General Motors and threatened pension defaults at United Airlines have instilled fear. The BRAC Commission’s release of recommended base closures has left tens of thousands worrying about their jobs. For the first time in a decade, a stagnant stock market is making almost no headline news. And of course constant hand-wringing about gas prices, outsourcing, and the Chinese bid to buy Unocal leads many Americans to believe we are not in control of our own economic future. So while the economic news is good, the news about the economy is depressing indeed.
But I believe something else is going on here. President Bush has not given a major speech on the economy since the 2004 election.
President Bush needs to learn a lesson his father never did. Unless a president — especially a Republican president — talks constantly with the American people about the economy, he will be seen by the public as doing nothing about it. This is especially true when the news is filtered through a hostile press corps. And while doing nothing about the economy may at times be the best way to strengthen it, this view is not shared by the majority of Americans…The White House has to speak with the American people about the state of the economy honestly, soothingly, confidently… and constantly. But time and circumstance is not on their side. Just as the Iraq War has kept President Bush from talking about the economy for the past several months, the next couple will be consumed with talk of Judge Roberts, the trial of Saddam Hussein, the CIA leak case, and the 2005 off-year elections. It may be 2006 before President Bush gets another opportunity to tout the strength and dynamism of the U.S. economy.