Washington economic indicator: political finger-pointing

August 19, 2010

How do you know the economy is souring?

One indicator that doesn’t come wrapped in a government report is political finger-pointing.

It’s an election year with a sluggish economy and so Republicans and Democrats want to make sure voters know it’s the other’s fault — or at the very least not their own fault.

Take a look at the response to the jobless data today which showed weekly unemployment benefit claims reached a nine-month high. OBAMA/

President Barack Obama, before leaving for Martha’s Vineyard, said the weak economic data underscored the need for small business lending legislation that is stalled in the Senate.  

“This is a bill that makes sense and normally we would expect Democrats and Republicans to join together,” Obama said at the White House. “Unfortunately, a partisan minority in the Senate so far has refused to allow this jobs bill to come up for a vote.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had a different interpretation. “This month’s jump in jobless claims may have surprised some economists, but it’s no surprise to the American families who are struggling to adjust to the Obama economy,” he said in a statement. “With unemployment claims hitting a nine-month high and a struggling housing market, middle-class Americans are losing faith in the Democrat leaders at the helm of our country.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office looked ahead and found more gloom.

CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said the economy faces even more difficult times ahead with chronic unemployment and slow manufacturing hurting recovery. He said the unemployment rate would not fall to around 5 percent until 2014. The last time the unemployment rate was at 5 percent was April 2008 when the economy was heading into recession.

One way to tell when the economy starts on an upswing will be to watch the politicians patting themselves on the back for the recovery.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama arrives in Massachusetts)

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