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It's the Economy Stupid, Part Two

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted January 14, 2008


It may be hard to believe, but it has been 15 years since "it’s the economy, stupid" helped to propel the Clintons into the White House for the first time.

This go round, of course, it looks like it’s an idea that is gathering steam once again as the economy heads for a likely recession.

In fact, a recent poll by The New York Times/CBS News found that 62 percent said they thought that the economy was getting worse.  Meanwhile, a full 75 percent said they thought that the country has "seriously gotten off on the wrong track."

So as we head into yet another contentious election year, one thing is becoming perfectly clear: it’s not the debate about the Iraq war that will likely carry the day in November, but James Carville’s mantra from 1992.

"It’s the economy, stupid" rides again.

That’s the story at least with the consumer confidence data released on Friday. The index fell to an all-time low as worries about jobs, energy bills and home foreclosures heightened people’s worries about the country’s economic health and their own financial well-being.

The index tumbled to 56.3 in early January, down from solid 95.3 a year ago.

Recent retail data from the all important Christmas season meanwhile only gave further traction to idea that the consumer is now reaching an exhaustion point.

Here’s a great story in the New York Times that cast something of a gloomy shadow on this year’s holiday spending.


It’s by Michael Barbaro entitled: Weak December Sales for Retailers.

"The nation’s big retail chains, a closely watched barometer of economic health, reported dreary December sales on Thursday, which may stoke fears of a recessionary downtown.

Sales fell at chains as varied as Nordstrom, Macy’s, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters when compared with those in the period a year earlier.

Stores cited a pullback in spending by consumers and a quirk in the calendar that pushed more holiday shopping days into November than December.

The size of the sales declines surprised analysts. Sales fell 11.4 percent at Kohl’s, 7.5 percent at J. C. Penney and 6 percent at Gap.

Even seemingly invincible stores, like the discounter Target, struggled. Sales fell 5 percent without adjusting for a shift in the calendar.

But sales rose 2.7 percent Wal-Mart, whose relentless price-cutting appeared to resonate with anxious shoppers.

"Consumers clearly tightened purse strings this holiday season," said Ken Perkins, the president of Retail Metrics, a research firm."

Ouch. Target down 5%?

Now if that’s not one of the seven signs of the apocalypse I don’t know what is. Most of the women I know could practically establish residency there.

So here we sit some fifteen years later, and what’s old is what’s new again.

It’s the economy stupid, part two.