The mainstream media, accustomed to celebrating even not-so-bad economic news as wonderful news for President Barack Obama, is greeting news of 2% economic growth in the third quarter with somber sobriety.
The 2% growth rate in gross domestic product (GDP) is only a slight improvement from 1.3% in the second quarter, and was narrowly above expectations of 1.8%. The new rate leaves the annual average for 2011 slightly lower than the average for 2012–a key talking point for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the debates and on the stump, and one that he will likely bring up today in an economic speech in Iowa.
National Public Radio said the economy grew “a little faster,” and that the new number represented “good and bad news.” An article on NPR’s website reminded readers that “this is just the first of three estimates of third-quarter growth and it’s likely there will be revisions in coming months.”
Reuters noted that the increased growth rate had been fueled by a “a burst of government spending,” describing the slight increase in consumer spending merely as an “uptick.” It also noted that the average growth rate for the year was slower than last year.
The Wall Street Journal played it straight, reporting that the growth rate beat expectations, and that the economy had grown for “13 consecutive quarters,” but added that “the pace has been lackluster” and noting that “[g]overnment spending contributed to economic growth for the first time in more than two years.” Like NPR, it added: “Not all the data have been good,” referring specifically to lower investment and poor trade.
Bloomberg had a more positive spin on the numbers, but noted that they gave fodder to both campaigns’ arguments. A subsequent story noted that U.S. stocks were “little changed” in response to the numbers, which did not point definitively in any particular direction.
CNBC’s headline said it all: “Economy Grows at 2% Rate; Government Provides Lift.“
CBS News seems to have been concerned that the numbers would help Romney, warning readers: “Regardless of election results, lackluster growth may be with us for the next few years.”
A quick survey of TV broadcasts reveals similar skepticism. Local station KNTV of Las Vegas, Nevada–a key battleground for the presidency–said: “…at two percent annual increase in the GDP is nowhere near the what’s needed…”.
Aside from a few outliers, the mainstream media seem to have been unusually cautious.