Opinion | The economy keeps defying media expectations. It’s part of a pattern.

Opinion | The economy keeps defying media expectations. It’s part of a pattern.


Many within the mainstream media greeted information on Thursday of strong 2.9 percent economic growth within the fourth quarter of 2022 with shock — shock even. And on Friday, there was extra good financial information: Inflation rates dropped in December in contrast with November, the sixth straight month of declines.

These numbers had been typically characterised as defying expectations of a recession or regardless of financial head winds. The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that although final quarter’s development was stable, the U.S. economy “entered this yr with much less momentum as rising rates of interest and still-high inflation weighed on demand.” Almost comically, the Associated Press needed to know: “How will we all know if the US economy is in a recession?”

The higher query: When will the mainstream media acknowledge good financial information for what it’s?

President Biden took a completely different view in a speech in Virginia on Thursday. “I’m unsure the information might have been any higher — financial development is up stronger than consultants anticipated, 2.9 %,” he crowed. “I don’t assume it’s unfair to say that that is all proof that [the] Biden financial plan is definitely working.”

At the tip of final yr, I spoke at size with Jared Bernstein, a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. The “information streams,” he advised me, merely didn’t assist the gloom-and-doom outlook many had been spouting. Any effort to elucidate a sunnier outlook was dismissed as spin. It appears, a minimum of within the brief run, that he had a higher bead on the economy than the administration’s legions of critics.

That is to not say the possibility of some kind of a recession is zero. Inflation remains to be excessive in contrast with a yr in the past, so the Federal Reserve will preserve elevating charges. A downturn remains to be doable. A possible default prompted by MAGA House brinkmanship might throw the economy out of kilter. But the knowledge with which the mainstream media asserted for months that the United States was on the precipice of a recession appears mistaken — and oddly acquainted.

Akin to the red-wave midterm election that by no means occurred, the media by no means appears to waiver from its gloomy predictions for the Biden administration. And its widespread refusal to offer credit score to the Fed and the administration whilst excellent news got here in has been notable.

Aside from the media’s predilection to emphasize damaging information (as a result of assumption that excellent news doesn’t entice as many eyeballs), there are a number of elements that may clarify reporters’ willingness to purchase into sky-is-falling predictions for Democrats.

First, the media stays deathly afraid of accusations of liberal bias. The fixed course correction within the title of illusory “steadiness” results in parroting right-wing speaking factors.

Second, the media is usually a prisoner of historic developments. The first midterm all the time goes to the get together out of energy; the president’s poor rankings all the time imply unhealthy information for his get together; and a recession all the time follows a hike in rates of interest. The drawback is that “all the time” isn’t — if ever — correct. (For instance, Republicans beneath George W. Bush carried out nicely of their first midterm elections.)

Moreover, issues are completely different now. The pandemic and ensuing recession is in contrast to every other financial occasion earlier than it. And the cloud that Donald Trump has hung over his get together has had a distinctive drag on Republicans in three consecutive elections. Sometimes, the previous isn’t any information to the long run.

Third, as with its untimely obituary for Biden’s first time period, the Beltway media covers the midterms and the economy because the everlasting opposition to the White House. Certain that they’re listening to spin from the White House, media members constantly refuse to offer credit score to the incumbent president and see themselves as skilled cynics. If the White House says it’s sunny outdoors, that should imply it’s pouring.

Finally, group assume is a perennial drawback within the mainstream media. Reporters and editors flow into from one outlet to a different; nobody needs to be too far out of the consensus; and too many political reporters see every part by way of the prism of partisan horse-race politics.

All of these elements contribute to affirmation bias. The media begins with an assumption, sifting out opposite information and doubling down on info that appear “proper.”

The answer? More variety in newsrooms. More experience in areas aside from politics. Less cringing over the menace of assaults from the best and fewer unstinting negativity. These modifications would serve the media and the nation nicely.