On Wall Street, there are all kinds of firms providing economic modeling and forecasting, and as a rule, they tend to be pretty good at it. Their jobs depend on it.
So, it’s always interesting to see what the firms project when it comes to American economic growth. Macroeconomic Advisers, for example, offers frequently-updated analysis of upcoming quarterly GDP reports. After a rough first quarter of 2011, everyone is hoping to see far more robust growth in the second quarter, covering April, May, and June.
As of a few weeks ago, things looked quite good. Macroeconomic Advisers projected that the U.S. economy was on track to show 3.7% growth in the second quarter, which would be very encouraging.
Soon after, Macroeconomic Advisers lowered that projection to 3.5%, Then 3.2%. As of this morning, it’s down to 2.8%.
Another shoe drops: Worse-than-expected durable-goods orders in April pushed Macroeconomic Advisers to cut their forecast for second-quarter GDP growth to 2.8% from 3.2%.
Macro Advisers was one of the first outfits to recognize that first-quarter growth would be much worse than the street expected. Now they’ve joined J.P. Morgan in forecasting roughly below-trend economic growth for the second straight quarter.
Most everybody else seems to be sticking with their forecasts of growth of 3% or more in the quarter. Goldman has already cut its forecast and may not feel too comfy cutting it twice in the same day. But these forecasts are getting shakier by the day, as the slowdown case gathers steam.
I realize it’s fallen out of fashion to talk about things such as economic growth and job creation, but I’m curious: does anyone still give a damn about the economy? Anyone at all?
The recovery is fragile and weak — and apparently getting weaker. The European debt crisis is once again growing more serious. The U.S. unemployment rate is 9%. Under sane circumstances, one would expect American policymakers to respond to developments like these with a renewed focus on improving the economy, giving it a much-needed boost.
But thanks to the 2010 midterms, a dysfunctional political system, and a stunted discourse, the current circumstances are anything but sane.
Republicans have responded to the weak economy by declaring, “Austerity for everyone!” The GOP is convinced we’ll all be better off after they’ve taken money out of the economy, made unemployment worse, and pursued a monetary policy that makes it harder for the world to buy American products. Democrats would like to respond to the weak economy with an ambitious economic agenda, but they don’t bother because they know it wouldn’t pass.
The best — the very best — we can hope for is a president who’ll stop Republicans from making matters much worse, and maybe a reluctant Federal Reserve that might choose to play a more constructive role. But really, that’s it. The White House can’t act without Congress, and Congress doesn’t want to act at all. We’re left to simply hope the economy continues to improve on its own.
And it’s not improving on its own.
In the meantime, countries like England are shrinking their economies to focus on the debt, which in turn, is making the debt worse.
It doesn’t have to be this way, and we know what we should do. The country needs the wisdom and courage to do the right thing, but as of today, with the recovery faltering, the right thing isn’t even on the negotiating table.