In the era of PowerPoint and other programs, with computers aiding the political gnomes, the days of long gray government reports are over. Instead, the propaganda is glossy and embellished with charts and graphs — exhibit A being the new Economic Report of the President.
It is the 69th in a line of reports from the Council of Economic Advisers — marking much of the period in which economics has blossomed as an obsession of government. And despite the charts and graphs, with multicolored trend lines aplenty, the material in many parts continues to earn the nickname of “the dismal science” for the ladies and gentlemen of the CEA.
Few will stay awake over such trenchant prose: “Although fiscal restraint continued in fiscal year 2014 with the Federal Budget deficit falling 1.3 percentage points to 2.8 percent of GDP, the restraint was less severe than during the two preceding years and mostly reflected the effects of automatic stabilizers rather than changes in the structural deficit.”
Most of these 400 pages, including appendices, are intended to say — as this report’s 68 predecessors also have stressed — that the incumbent president is doing a pretty darn good job with the economy.
Believe that if you want to, and in fact, there is considerable good news about the economy, but even the gloss of improvement cannot entirely PowerPoint over the slow recovery from the debacle of the recession that engulfed the nation in 2008.
The post-recession economy is growing at an annual rate of 2.8 percent over the last two years, but in a trend that began long before the recession, wage growth hasn’t been robust; not unreasonably, the American people aren’t going to be happy about that.
Where the new report sounds a cautionary note that ought to be heeded is that the American economy is part of a larger whole: “The available 2014 indicators suggest that the economies of Japan and our euro-area trading partners are sagging,” the report stated. “A slowdown abroad not only reduces our exports, but also raises risks of financial and other spillovers to the U.S. economy.”
This is of particular importance right now to Louisiana, where growth is endangered by a sudden slump in the price of oil. That is driven by both more production in the United States but also by declining rates of growth in major trading partners. In oil prices, it’s both a consumption and a production problem, but the former issues are in Europe, China and Japan.
If the new CEA report suggests many of the president’s favorite nostrums that are unlikely to be adopted by the GOP Congress, such as raising the minimum wage, it also pushes the growth of trade as one of the critical issues for the economy. We could not agree more with this and hope that the trade discussions in the CEA report get some attention on Capitol Hill.
Growing the pie, the global pie of which America’s economy is a part, is good for Louisiana as well as the nation and for the U.S. business as well as its counterpart in our trade partners.