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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, April 23, 2006

McIlheran Watch: Conservative Economic Delusions

I don't have a lot of time for blogging this morning, but I do want to squeeze in a quick round of the M-Watch. See if you can spot the contradiction. Let's call this paragraph A:
Polls show that despite an economy cooking along at 3.5% annual growth, unemployment lower than it's been for most of the past quarter-century and the eagerness of would-be employers like Schneider, people think the outlook stinks, that the breadwinner work has fled to China, leaving only bun-slicer jobs at Burger Barn.
And let's call this paragraph B:
[Vice president in charge of recruiting at Schneider National Rob Reich's] company held a recruiting fair in its hometown of Green Bay last month, expecting a few hundred people. Eight hundred showed up, including more than 100 would-be truckers. "It was outstanding," he says, though he's still looking for more, thousands nationwide.
These paragraphs both live at the top of McIlheran's Sunday Comics this week. Apparently, P-Mac is distressed that the people--those stupid people!--are too pessimistic about the Bush economy which, by his figuring, is "cooking along."

Here's the contradiction: If the economy is really so "cooking," why did two or three times the number of expected people show up at a job fair? It certainly can't be because the economy is "cooking along" for them, can it?

Like the good shills at Fox News (aside to Paul Brewer: Can we call that a push poll?), McIlheran is willing to believe that good numbers in some metrics mean everyone's boats have gotten higher in the rising tide. This is clearly not the case: Some people's boats are taking on a lot of water.

To be fair, some of his column directs reasonable criticism at Milwaukee officials who squashed an attempt by e-retailer to move into new development in the city's Menominee Valley. Officials were hoping better-paying and non-seasonal employment would end up there, but they clearly erred in killing that opportunity.

But most of McIlheran's column is bewildered rumination over why people think the economy is so bad since everyone can be a truck driver ("where you can spend hours engaging your mind via books on tape"--really, I'm not making this up). He needs to go read some Billmon, who explains, with graphs and pictures, why people think the economy sucks. Hint: It has something to do with the huge spike in corporate profits and the flat line of personal income. Tack on $3.09 for gas and, well, it starts to feel pretty glum, doesn't it?

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