As the Economy Wavers, Is Washington Paying Attention?: The latest economic numbers have not been good. Jobless claims rose last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Another report showed that economic growth at the start of the year was no faster than the Commerce Department initially reported — “a real surprise,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics. Perhaps the most worrisome number was the one Macroeconomic Advisers released on Wednesday. That firm tries to estimate the growth rate of the current quarter in real time, and it now says annualized second-quarter growth is running at only 2.8 percent, up from 1.8 percent in the first quarter. Not so long ago, the firm’s economists thought second-quarter growth would be almost 4 percent. An economy that is growing this slowly will not add jobs quickly. For the next couple of months, employment growth could slow from about 230,000 recently to something like 150,000 jobs a month, only slightly faster than normal population growth. That is certainly not fast enough to make a big dent in the still huge number of unemployed people.
Are any policy makers paying attention?
When the economy weakened in the first quarter, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, and Obama administration officials said the slowdown was just a blip and growth would soon pick up....
The most sensible response for Washington would be to begin thinking more seriously about taking out an insurance policy on the recovery. The Fed could stop worrying so much about inflation, which remains historically low, and look at how else it might encourage spending. As Mr. Bernanke has said before, the Fed “retains considerable power” to lift growth. The White House and Congress, meanwhile, could begin talking about extending last year’s temporary extension of business tax credits, household tax cuts and jobless benefits beyond Dec. 31. It would be easy enough to pair such an extension with longer-term deficit reduction... the current moment remains a textbook time to use them — when the economy is struggling to emerge from the aftermath of a terrible recession. The one thing not to do is to turn to deficit reduction too quickly after a crisis, as Europe is painfully learning.
Almost four years after the mortgage market first began to quiver and unemployment began to rise, Americans are understandably eager for good economic news. But wishing for it doesn’t make it so. You have to wonder whether the people in Washington have learned that lesson yet.