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Peter Goodman's Strained Idea of an Economic "Slump"

The paper's newest gloomy economics reporter sees hardship in slipping sales of crab meat.

Friday's front-page featured the latest dire reporting from economics correspondent Peter Goodman, "Slump Moves From Wall St. To Main St. - Credit Crisis Touching Once-Immune Areas."


In Seattle, sales at a long-established hardware store, Pacific Supply, are suddenly dipping. In Oklahoma City, couples planning their weddings are demonstrating uncustomary thrift, forgoing Dungeness crab and special linens. And in many cities, the registers at department stores like Nordstrom on the higher end and J. C. Penney in the middle are ringing less often.


Jeff Poor of the Business and Media Institute wonders how much "hardship" is truly involved in forgoing Dungeness crab for imitation crab meat.



Goodman continued:


With Wall Street caught in a credit crisis that has captured headlines, the forces assailing the economy are now spreading beyond areas hit hardest by the boom-turned-bust in real estate like California, Florida and Nevada. Now, the downturn is seeping into new parts of the country, to communities that seemed insulated only months ago.


The broadening of the slowdown, the plunge in home prices and near-paralysis in the financial system are fueling worries that what most economists now see as an inevitable recession could end up being especially painful.


Indeed, some economists fear it will last longer and inflict more bite on workers and businesses than the last two recessions, which gripped the economy in 2001 and for eight months straddling 1990 and 1991. This time, these experts say, a recession in which economic activity falls over a sustained period and joblessness rises across the board could even persist into next year.


Goodman's newest report is actually slightly more balanced than some of his previous work, including a brief rebuttal to his main theme of the wretched economy:


To be sure, there are many places where talk of recession still seems as out of place as a diner trying to score a table at a trendy Los Angeles restaurant without reservations on a Saturday night. First-class cabins of airplanes are jammed. So are spas, cigar bars and children's clothing boutiques selling upscale dresses.


Unemployment, meanwhile, still remains at a relatively low 4.8 percent.


But even after the Federal Reserve's extraordinary efforts to prevent the collapse of Bear Stearns from spreading to other financial institutions, the danger still lurks that banks will grow even tighter with their funds and will starve the economy of capital.


On the jump page, a collection of charts labeled "Signs of Trouble" had the heartening caption:



"Several measures indicate that the United States economy is faltering and may already have slipped into a recession."


Goodman doesn't have a high opinion of U.S. consumerism, judging by this bit from a February piece:


The Me Decade was declared dead in the recession of the early 1980s, only to yield to the Age of Greed and later the Internet boom of the 1990s.