The state of the U.S. economy has become a divisive, partisan political issue, and bad things happen when politics intrudes on economics.
The other day, The Wall Street Journal published my op-ed, “Stop Panicking About the U.S. Economy,” a contrarian view of the media’s fear-mongering about the next recession. A week later Newsmax posted my column offering further evidence of how our economy is in better shape than the pixel pundits realize.
More than 500 online comments responded to my op-ed on WSJ.com, so much vitriol, anger, and personal criticism over the sterile, factual matters of GDP growth, unemployment, and job openings. (WSJ subscribers can read the comments here: https://on.wsj.com/3BkcT15.)
All because I pointed out a few things that might augur well: 11 million job openings and only 5 million unemployed; $5 trillion in COVID-19 handouts with $800 billion still unspent; up to 80% more cash on hand for the bottom half of households; oil prices’ having peaked in March, and Walmart’s cutting prices rather than raising them.
What is so wrong with offering a little hope? A lot, in these bitterly divided days.
The most critical comments came from my fellow conservatives — and they were so mean! Some readers accused me of working for President Biden, or the liberal New York Times, or perhaps a Democratic operative (which amounts to hate speech, almost).
As one WSJ reader, Michael Woloshin, put it: “Is this guy part of the incompetent Biden administration or just your typical msm maroon?” He may have been invoking a euphemism for “moron,” to evade WSJ algorithms that block disparaging terms in pursuit of civility.
“Who in creation is this clown Dennis Kneale?” writes Francis Keck, adding, “this guy is truly absurd.” Mark Strumpf answers: “A New York City PR hack. The lowest of the low.”
Ouch. I spent 35 years as a journalist hack, dude, please get your facts straight.
Though my op-ed’s topic was the economy, many readers saw only political slant: “Hey Dennis, how much did Barack pay you for this insightful piece?” asks David Rice. From J.D. Free: “It’s hard to believe that this article wouldn't look very different if the little letter after the name of the president was an R instead of a D.”
In truth, I voted for Trump, twice, and I haven’t voted for a Democrat since Obama 14 years ago (first term; hope, and all that). It’s just that, investors should avoid letting their political bent obscure their views of the economy and investing.
It is difficult to determine when everything, and seemingly everyone, got so mean online. President Trump gets a lot of the blame for this, though the meanness predates him by a decade or more.
In the Great Meltdown, in June 2009, when I had a nightly show on CNBC and most other TV pundits were predicting even darker times ahead, I insisted the recession was ending and that stocks were a buy. This sparked an onrush of incredibly rude ripostes on the hardcore blogger site Zero Hedge, bashing me for my optimism back then, just like today.
A year later, the National Bureau of Economic Research decreed that yes, indeed, the Great Recession had ended in June 2009.
I was right, the meanies were wrong, and stock prices doubled in the ensuing five years and quadrupled over all by 2021. Oh, and this time around, I am right again.
On Thursday last week, Bloomberg reported: “US Recession Odds Are Falling Fast,” and said the “probability” of a recession “tumbles to 51% from 91%,” as implied by the S&P 500.
On Friday, the government reported a massive 528,000 new jobs added in July, and a 50-year low in unemployment, at 3.5%. This prompted Greg Ip, the chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal, to put out a note on Twitter: “Recession? What recession?”
Let the Eeyores summon doom, and know that, in the long run, we are better off betting on hope rather than rooting for destruction. Investing is biased toward the upside.
And, maybe, this: Be nicer. The universe rewards kindness.
Dennis Kneale, @denniskneale on Twitter, is a writer and media strategist in New York. Previously, he was a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, the managing editor of Forbes, and an anchor at CNBC and Fox Business. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.
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