It’s hard to even recognize good news anymore. No matter what the good news might be, it won’t be long before someone from ‘the other side’ energetically claims it’s cherry picked, not completely accurate, or my favorite, that the news is actually bad.
Good news of the week: the U.S. economy is outperforming almost every country on Earth.
I should pause there, so those on ‘the other side’ of that accurate, documentable, statement of fact can get its alternative description of the situation together. OK, now that the crowd who wants us to believe everything is actually terrible is ready, we can proceed.
On January 19, 2021, the day before Joe Biden was inaugurated, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed at $30,930.52. On Friday, the Dow closed at an all-time high of $37,305.16. Now, the market doing well, and the economy doing well is not the exact same thing. But I remember a president who pounded that erroneous equivalency into our heads. It was the last president. While it might be cute to agree with him this one time just because it’s convenient for my side, I won’t.
The Dow is just one measure of how the economy is working. There’s more to it than that, of course.
Steve Rattner, an investment banker and financial journalist, discussed the impact of the Federal Reserve Board’s quarterly meeting on MSNBC last Wednesday. He said this holiday season, “Inflation on goods, from used cars to computers and televisions is actually turned into deflation. Prices on those goods are actually lower than they were a year ago.”
Again, it is not the rate of increase that has shrunk. It is that prices themselves are lower. For consumers, during their spendiest time of the year, that seems like good news. But again, not if your side wants consumers to be mad, and stay mad, until further notice.
NPR’s Domenico Montanaro published a detailed report on December 9th on who sees good economic news and who doesn’t, primarily based on who is in the White House and who isn’t. I always find it fascinating how politics has the ability to change opinionless things like math and science so fluidly.
My personal experience with this can be summarized by a strategic error I made on Sunday night. My wife and I didn’t know what we were having for dinner, so I wanted to go to the grocery store to keep my place on our kitchen’s Dinner Planning Committee. The problem arose when I discovered we needed to make “a quick stop at Ulta on the way.” For those unfamiliar, Ulta is a “beauty” store where shoppers buy cosmetics, fragrances, bath, body and haircare products.
I’m glad I didn’t wait in the car. Walking into that store was like walking into a casino on the Las Vegas strip. The smells that hit me in the face just inside the door, and the elaborate floor to ceiling displays of no-miss therapies and products to make one their absolutely most beautiful, were mind-boggling. We were in there for 15 minutes, and in that amount of time, I was convinced I could become the prettiest woman in town.
It wouldn’t be inexpensive mind you, but only in a strong economy can a store full of dreams, like Ulta, even exist. And business was booming in there on Sunday night. Whether your demographic wants to emulate Jennifer Aniston, or Ariana Grandé, Ulta has what you need to get the job done. And Americans are buying it.
My beauty supply market experience aside, what other traditional metrics matter?
Unemployment? It’s at 3.7% today. The lowest pre-pandemic number was 3.5%. In January of this year, it had bested that when it hit 3.4%. Americans who want a job, either have one or can get one.
Back to Rattner for a moment, who I often disagree with. During his Wednesday report, he said, “I’ve never seen quite this much disconnect between the state of an economy and the state of how people feel about the economy.” I will go a step further. Not only are people mad when they shouldn’t be, they are assigning blame for what should be celebrated.
The good economic news is undeniable: America is winning. It hasn’t become utopia, but even if it had, I’m not sure it would matter.
The aftermath of a global pandemic caused historic inflation. By the way, it may have been the most predictable economic phenomenon in history too. But in the face of this unique global challenge, we have quickly reestablished ourselves as the winners again.
When we get around to having the victory party, it’s gonna be sick. I’m inviting both Jennifer and Ariana. They’ll love my new look.