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Economic Growth Slows to a Crawl in First Quarter

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Here is another prime example of reporting as usual from the LA Times. The gist: The economy is growing but not fast enough. Don Lee writes, “The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy expanded at a mere 0.1% annual pace in the first three months of the year, one of the weakest rates of growth in the nearly 5-year-old recovery.” Nothing but depressing news as exemplified by words like “mere” and “weakest”. We’re still wondering where it’s set in stone that the economy has to be constantly growing for all to be right in the world. But somehow that idea is lodged in people’s brains.

And like most articles of this nature, there is then a turn…a glimmer of optimism to keep us hopeful and spending. “Economists, however, are expecting growth to turn back up in the current quarter and strengthen as the year progresses.”

“…households are better positioned to spend more, with their debts pared down, credit a little more available and the housing and stock markets having added to their wealth.” This can also be read as, “people are buying more stuff (which implicitly means more resources are being used up), they’re doing it with money they don’t have, and more houses are being built.” Grow baby grow.

But it’s never really quite apparent how much growth is needed to constitute “good news”. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as it’s news…

And oddly enough, the media and economists are blaming the slowdown on the weather. Funny thing about that, keep promoting this production-consumption-growth as usual, the weather is only going to get worse. Anyone who is relying on “seasonal norms” to stabilize their economic growth is going to be sorely disappointed. It’s time to set our priorities in a different direction.

Image Source | Bureau of Economic Analysis 

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  • Alexander W. Smith
    Alexander W. Smith Friday, 09 May 2014

    THIS: "And oddly enough, the media and economists are blaming the slowdown on the weather. Funny thing about that, keep promoting this production-consumption-growth as usual, the weather is only going to get worse."

    Well done! I'm amazed at how this correlation is repeatedly overlooked by economists and the media.

    The Beige Book - A summary and analysis of economic activity broken down by region by the Federal Reserve and published monthly - resorted to blaming the weather for economic weakness no fewer than 103 times in the April report. (A new record?) And recent earnings reports saw an unprecedented number of CEOs blaming weak top line sales on the weather (including a few standout examples that were rife with hilarity - McDonald's being one (really? really? people didn't drive-through to eat fake food because it was cold outside?))

    Meanwhile, there are people who don't have the luxury of using Climate Change as a token issue to pander to their base (whether for or against) and who believe that it is both a) very real and b) must be planned for, addressed, and mitigated however possible. Who are those people you might ask?

    Well, none other than the Department of Defense and the National Security Council (not exactly progressive, tree-hugging, hippy liberals.)

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub862.pdf
    http://serppas.org/Files/Climate/Army%20High-Level%20Climate%20Change%20Vulnerability%20Assessment%20(2013)(final).pdf
    http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/1010_energy/

    So, if the most traditionally conservative enclave of our government (and also the one most responsible for ensuring and often promoting through force the concept of American Exceptionalism) see Climate Change and declining resources as an issue, then perhaps the rest of the country could wake the f*^$ up? I won't hold my breath....

    At any rate, keep up the great work!

    Reply Cancel
  • Dave Gardner
    Dave Gardner Friday, 09 May 2014

    Thanks for that perspective, and making me chuckle (even though it's really not funny - just got a kick out of your wake up comment)!

  • Alexander W. Smith
    Alexander W. Smith Friday, 09 May 2014

    Ha! Thanks. I enjoy the somewhat snarky style of the writing here, so I figured I'd join the fray in like tenor.

    And again, thanks for all of the work you all do at GBB to keep highlighting a different perspective and a potential alternative economic philosophy regarding consumption, growth, and resource utilization. It must be thankless at times to push so stubbornly against the tide and try to be heard above the squall, but I'm a prime example of someone who is hearing that message and appreciates it.

    Keep rockin' it!

    Al

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