[T]he economic numbers are not so bad. A recession is defined as two quarters of contraction. But we haven’t had one yet. The gross domestic product has grown, albeit only by 0.6 percent, in the last two quarters. As my U.S. News colleague James Pethokoukis blogged after the most recent numbers came in, “Dude, where’s my recession?”Read it here.
By any historic standard, our economic numbers are good, though possibly headed in a negative direction. April’s unemployment was 5 percent — a figure that once upon a time was considered full employment. The Consumer Price Index was up 3.9 percent, largely due to price rises in energy and food. “Core inflation” was 2.3 percent. Productivity was up 2.2 percent.
Those are numbers that would have been taken as a sign of very good times when I was growing up.
Barone's larger point is that nearly all of today's voters have known nothing but good economic times. They don't comprehend the miracle of the age in which we are living. Moreover, he suggests (and this is where he gets interesting) our economy is so robust that it can weather crises that would have been devastating in earlier years. Reviewing Alan Greenspan's memoir he notes that during his term at the Fed we experienced:
a stock market crash in 1987, currency meltdowns in Mexico in 1994 and in Asia in 1997, the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, and the Sept. 11 attacks and the Enron collapse in 2001yet through it all the American economy just kept on growing, as it did through the collapse of the tech bubble. There is every reason to believe that today's real estate collapse will have no more residual effect on American prosperity than any of the previous crises. Today's voters have seen crises come and go with few long term consequences. This leads Barone to speculate that voters are no longer as concerned about economic issues as they once were. In other words it's not the economy stupid any more.