At the WaPo, a deconstruction of the news

It isn’t often that you see one of the major media deconstructing the news, but Dana Milbank at the Washington Post fisks assistant Treasury secretary’s Phillip Swagel’s recent news conference discussing a dismal jobs report. From the story:

Think you’re worried about the economy? Phillip Swagel is a wreck … Yesterday’s report that 62,000 jobs were lost brought the total for the first half of the year to 438,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its measure of the service sector had declined in June. Stock markets, flirting with a bear market, finished another losing week. Oil pushed to a record high. Inflation and foreclosures are up, consumer confidence is down, and administration forecasts for a “strong pace of growth” in the second half of 2008 are look increasingly absurd. It was a hopeless spin assignment — but Swagel, the administration’s sacrificial lamb for the day, had to try.

The Treasury’s own spinsters are having trouble delivering the spin they’re being asked to, which should say something. At the very least, it makes Swagel human; he’d clearly never cut it at the National Association of Realtors, what with their endless drumming up of housing’s bottom each month. Swagel, by the way, finally caved and broke ranks at the end of the press conference, too:

The reporter asked if he saw any hope for economic revival in the new employment report. Swagel exhaled loudly. “No,” he said, then sniffed and exhaled again. “You know, the data today, right, we had, wage gains were decent, but of course we know that overall inflation, uh, is going to fully offset and more those, uh, you know, those wage gains,” he said. The unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent, but “I don’t . . . take any comfort from that.”

In other words: we’re supposed to hold the slow growth line, but any reasonable economist sees right past that weak logic right now, and I’m a reasonable economist. Check out the video: (H/T to Calculated Risk for finding the story)

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