This end of the blogosphere has enjoyed a delicious running joke for much of Barack Obama’s presidency…the strange appearance of the word “unexpectedly” in MSM coverage of the anemic economic recovery. Of course, many of us knew that Dear Leader’s economic policies would either amount to nothing and/or inhibit economic growth even as they were being debated, so there was nothing unexpected about the result. Still, the joke has only gotten funnier (sadder?) as time has worn on and it becomes clearer and clearer that the man-who-has-never-had-a-real-job-yet-occupies-the-White-House has no clue what he is doing when it comes to the economy. (For our purposes here, we ignore the not-so-outlandish notion that perhaps he knows exactly what he is doing, but that robust economic growth, if it is the result of typical laissez-faire American capitalism, is not his goal.)
Anyway, this joke – and the point it reveals – has finally made it somewhat mainstream via the good offices of Michael Barone, who makes it the central theme of this Washington Examiner column.
Which raises some questions. 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.
…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.
Let’s unpack that a little. “the toll that [gas prices, etc.] are taking on people’s psyches.” Only on their psyches? The way I read it, the toll is being taken on their pocketbooks, their economic position, their net worth—phrase it any way you want, but the damage from high gas prices, low hiring and housing price doldrums is concrete and economic, not airy and “psychic.” People aren’t just being spooked; their responding to realities. And who, by the way, are the “economists” who had expected consumer confidence to rise? Perhaps the Associated Press writers could do a little investigation here and tell us who the economists are who keep getting things wrong. Or will they be content to keep characterizing negative economic trends as “unexpected”?