Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Counting Chickens

The media is starting to push the idea that just because everyone hates their new GOP governor and/or legislature, Obama has 2012 in the bag. While the overreach and extremism at the state level certainly will play a big part in the election, we seem to have an even bigger problem at hand - and that is the increasing slowdown in the economy. All the nuttiness in the world will not make up for a stagnant economy, so we better not start counting those electoral votes just yet.

The numbers are starting to paint the picture. Unemployment is still high. Housing is officially in a double-dip, hitting lows below the floor seen in the recession. The GDP has slowed to a crawl at 1.8. And here in Michigan, just as the automakers are starting to build capacity again, this morning comes the word...

Car and truck sales are expected to show some significant cooling when the May numbers come out later today.

“Sales have been tracking at a much lower rate than what we saw in April,” says J.D. Power director of global forecasting Jeff Schuster. “It’s somewhat expected with all the variables out there that are interplaying with each other, with gas prices, with lower overall incentive levels compared to last month.”

Unless Memorial Day Weekend sales were surprisingly strong, Schuster says May will probably see a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Sales Rate in the 12 million range. The last few months, that rate had topped 13 million.

J.D. Power seems to think that the domestics will still benefit from lack of supply from the Japanese automakers, and that sales will get back on track after a summer lull. Better hope they are right, because once the vicious cycle of dropping consumer confidence kicks in, there is no telling where this will go next.

As shown by another report released today, consumers are feeling it. As measured by the Conference Board, their confidence dropped to a six-month low in May. That confidence level is reflected by weak growth in consumer spending. And that is, in part at least, due to lack of growth in labor compensation. Manufacturing growth, which had been a bright spot in the economy also is dropping off. A manufacturing report scheduled for release Wednesday will show just how far.

If Democrats don't get back on the "jobs, jobs, jobs" message, the Republicans will gladly turn this slowdown back on the Obama administration - even as they are obstructing any and all solutions to the problem, even as they insist that we cut more jobs at the federal and state level. Would be great if someone would come up with a figure (with a multiplier) on how many jobs have been slashed by these Republican governors - but media certainly isn't going to do it for you. They are way too busy following the clowns in the clown car and never challenging what they are saying, even when it's all a bunch of contradictory nonsense. Don't count on them to spell it out.

This is all about 2012 for the media, and the horse race is starting now, as this clip from the Last Word clearly shows - but watch how Governor Granholm manages to turn the message back to "jobs, jobs, jobs" within the first two questions. It's a difficult leap when the talking heads want to focus on the sensational and hype up the controversy, but it's one that the Democrats need to figure out how to make.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What's missing here is the emotional connection. The term "public-private partnerships" is too much pol speak. Democrats need get out of the head and appeal to the heart, show how Republican policy is not only obstructing job growth but dooming this country to a race to the bottom when it comes to education, health care, environment, wages, benefits, anything and everything that we hold dear - because that's exactly what they are doing. Take a look around. They are gutting the country from within, and then they will turn around and blame Obama for it. They know no shame. An appeal to American exceptionalism to sell the idea of public investment just might work if done right - but the Democrats have to refine that message, and - most important - stay on message.

Easier said than done, I know. Let's hope they "get it" and soon, because a lot can and will change between now and November of 2012, and the things the nasty Republican governors are doing today will be so much yesterday's news by then. This will all be Obama's fault by next summer - unless we start to undermine that strategy right now.

Republicans are telegraphing their punches in a major way. Sure would be nice to throw some first for a change, wouldn't it?