When GDP Matters More Than a New Poll

Washington Matters

When GDP Matters More Than a New Poll

Washington is a different kind of place in an election year, as politics begins to color every event and activity. That's certainly true of government economic reports. Jobs and prices capture heightened attention. And then there's GDP, the overall measure of how things are going.


Every July the Commerce Dept. crunches numbers on government spending, retail sales and just about every aspect of the

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Not in an election year, though. The folks at Commerce today said that GDP in the fourth quarter of 2007 didn't increase 0.6% as previously reported. It shrank 0.2%.


Economists willl shrug off that change. The economy has been weak. It doesn't signal an official recession. That's done by an independent panel.


But look for the politicians to jump right in. It's proof, some Democrats will say, that President Bush is leading the economy into the ground. They'll also highlight symmetry: the last time GDP contracted in a quarter was the third quarter of 2001, the first year of the Bush presidency. How about that, they'll say, Bush is going out the way he came in.


Democrats also will renew their push for another round of fiscal stimulus. Republicans will reply that a stimulus won't do much to help and will make the deficit worse. Of course, that will only serve to remind voters that the budget deficit will swell beyond $450 billion in the coming fiscal year.


The Democrats are being dealt the right cards, it seems. Even GDP revisions are playing into their hands.