As elections draw closer that may entail huge losses for the Democrats, will Times editors began to push up more optimistic coverage about the economic recovery? The placement of Friday's optimistic column by chief financial correspondent Floyd Norris makes one wonder.
"Why So Glum? Numbers Point To a Recovery" is the first of Norris's twice-weekly columns to make the front page since November 21, 2008 - 16 months ago - according to a quick Nexis search.
Here's Norris today:
The American economy appears to be in a cyclical recovery that is gaining strength. Firms have begun to hire and consumer spending seems to be accelerating.
That is what usually happens after particularly sharp recessions, so it is surprising that many commentators, whether economists or politicians, seem to doubt that such a thing could possibly be happening.
Why is good news being received with such doubt? Why is "new normal" the currently popular economic phrase, signifying that growth will be subpar for an extended period, and that the old normal is no longer something to be expected?
It is possible, of course, that I am wrong and the prevalent pessimism is correct. Many economic indicators, including Thursday's retail sales report, are looking up, but that does not prove the recovery will be self-sustaining. There are issues relating to over-indebted consumers and local governments. The housing collapse will have an impact for some time.
The employment report for March, released a week ago, was a milestone that has been little noted. The household survey, from which the unemployment rate is calculated, showed a gain during the first quarter of this year of 1.1 million jobs, the best performance since the spring of 2005.
True, the more widely reported numbers from the survey of employers are not as good. But those numbers are subject to heavy revision as better data becomes available. At the turning points for employment after the last two downturns, those numbers turned out to be far better than was reported at the time.
Norris concluded by venturing a political prediction giving hope to the Democratic Party:
In 1982, Democrats scoffed at a surging stock market and thought a severe recession would last for a very long time. They were confident that the economy would doom Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984. All they had to do was make clear they offered a stark alternative to the failing policies of the incumbent.
Change a few words (Reagan to Obama, Democrats to Republicans, 1984 to 2012) and you have an accurate description of the current political climate. Could the Republicans be as wrong now as the Democrats were then?
Norris is not getting much support for his cheery thesis and to his credit is publishing some of the negative comments online at his nytimes.com blog.