When good news about the economy triggers a bad news media vibe

The media spent the bulk of last year assuring Americans a recession was imminent. But not only has that much-ballyhooed recession failed to materialize, news also broke this week that the U.S. economy grew 5.2% in the third quarter—the fastest pace of growth in almost two years.

Good news! The notably robust growth, an upward revision from a previous government estimate of 4.9%, looks pretty sick (“cool” in kid slang) in this U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis bar graph comparing quarterly reports over the last year.

But wait, it gets better! The White House touted even more good news on Thursday:

  • Annual inflation fell to its lowest level in more than two-and-a-half years.

  • Monthly inflation was zero (zip, nada, nothing).

  • Gas prices have fallen by $1.77 since they peaked after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

  • Prices for eggs and milk are down over the past year.

To put a finer point on inflation easing: Personal consumption expenditures fell to 3% year over year in October—the lowest PCE inflation rate since March 2021. In graph form, it looks like inflation ascended a mighty hilltop over the past two years, peaking last summer, and nearly returning to the flatlands  in October.

More good news on the economy today: Annual inflation fell to its lowest level since March 2021 and monthly inflation was zero. President Biden will not stop fighting to lower costs for hardworking families. pic.twitter.com/wdoOf3uMb5

— Jeff Zients (@WHCOS) November 30, 2023

Don't worry, though, the dogged media is determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, come hell or high water.

Following news that consumer spending rose again in October, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers posed a challenge to reporters and analysts.

"There's been about a million think pieces asking 'why are people so miserable about the economy,'" Wolfers tweeted Thursday, "but I'm yet to see one grapple with the fact that folks are spending as if they're actually pretty optimistic about their economic futures."

There's been about a million think pieces asking "why are people so miserable about the economy," but I'm yet to see one grapple with the fact that folks are spending as if they're actually pretty optimistic about their economic futures. https://t.co/Y7d7xwtR6n

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) November 30, 2023

Turns out Wolfers was a day too late. CNBC had already met the challenge with a piece titled "Americans are 'doom spending' — here's why that's a problem.”

Hear that? Dooooooooooom spending! It's over, folks—pull up the covers, close your eyes, and retreat back to more comforting times, like when you were wiping down all your groceries to ensure they were plague-free.

The fanciful phrase "doom spending" appears to have been dreamed up by the credit monitoring service Credit Karma, and then mass distributed by CNBC:

Nearly all Americans, 96%, are concerned about the current state of the economy, according to a recent report by Intuit Credit Karma.

Still, more than a quarter are “doom spending,” or spending money despite economic and geopolitical concerns, the report found. ...

“Much like doom scrolling, we’re seeing people mindlessly shop to soothe concerns about the economy and foreign affairs, which could take a toll on their financial wellbeing,” Courtney Alev, Credit Karma’s consumer financial advocate, told CNBC.

Sorry, Wolfers—asked and answered. People are apparently so miserable, they are raining down money on the economy. It's dreadful stuff.

Not to be outdone, the Gray Lady's flagship podcast, ”The Daily,” dropped a 22-minute episode Thursday titled "The Bad Vibes Around a Good Economy." Sure, we may have escaped the long-promised recession on the policy side, but the whole economic vibe is just a downer right now, folks. Case in point: increased spending.

Thank goodness the media is here to tell us why we can’t have nice things—just in time for the holidays.

Campaign Action

There has been a ton of coverage in recent weeks over a streak of poor 2024 polling for Democrats and Target Smart’s Tom Bonier joins us to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. We talk about what to take from these polls and how to balance them against the much more positive election results we’ve seen this year. We also discuss how early voting data continues to evolve and how Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign will use Ohio’s recent abortion and marijuana referendums to find new persuadable voters next year.

House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry is all vibes, no evidence

House Republicans have a sense—a deep intuition—that their political adversary, Democratic President Joe Biden, just might have done something wrong. They are not sure what he did or when he did it, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday his caucus would open a formal impeachment inquiry to get to the bottom of it once and for all.

Think of it as the "all vibes, no evidence" impeachment inquiry—a perfect encapsulation of the MAGA agenda in action.

Naturally, reality-based commentators on the right and left had thoughts. Pro-democracy conservative David Frum summed up McCarthy's "plan" in a telling tweet:

1) Impeach Biden for his son's sad life.

2) Shut down the government.

3) Federal abortion ban.

4) Impunity for Trump's coup, document thefts, commercial frauds, Kushner's Saudi $2 billion, etc.

5) Find a lobbying job before November 2024.

On the Democratic side, veteran strategist and Hopium Chronicles substacker Simon Rosenberg enumerated "what MAGA is fighting for”:

- The end of American democracy

- Recession, economic ruin, plutocratic tax policy

- Warmer planet, rolling back climate gains

- More guns, more dead kids

- 10 year olds giving birth to their rapist's babies

- Russian victory in Ukraine

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, still manages to serve up some occasional gems, despite being gutted by tech bro Elon Musk. These takes on House Republicans' "all vibes, no evidence" impeachment inquiry certainly qualify.