It does sometimes feel as though many Americans actually think the success of the American economy is due to the behemoth in Washington, D.C., rather than in spite of it.
When Friday’s job’s numbers came out, they gobsmacked the media and economic experts, who were expecting 170,000 at the top end and were greeted with 304,000. But those figures were considerably less surprising to those of us who view the government as a hindrance to private enterprise and economic well-being — not an indispensable necessity.
Now an additional data point comes courtesy of Americans’ spending on last night’s Super Bowl — unarguably one of the most boring in history.
“American adults say they will spend an average $81.30 for a total of $14.8 billion as they watch the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams meet up in the Super Bowl,” according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics conducted before Sunday’s game.
Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO says that is due to lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand resulting from those first two. But the CBO goes on to say it is really nowhere near that high.
“Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days,” CNBC reported, desperately trying to make it seem as though there was economic significance to the shutdown. Media use the big number in the headlines and leads, but it is irrelevant. Only the net number is what counts: $3 billion.
Even the CBO report’s narrative made clear that, despite hyperbolic media attention, the government shutdown was a big snoozer when it came to economic impact.
“Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business,” the report said. “Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”
So to get this straight. Four hours of football and an entertainment halftime show created nearly five times as much economic activity as was lost due to the month-long partial government shutdown.
It’s almost as if hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats not showing up in big drab government buildings to push papers, regulate small businesses and grind things slowly for a month didn’t hurt the economy. In fact, based on the job numbers Friday, the bureaucrats’ absence may actually have boosted things.
One downside to note: About 17 million people are expected to call in sick today, the day after the Super Bowl, with the pigskin pox. I’m going to suggest a lot of that is hangover related. That, along with all of the conversations about the game during work hours, could hurt economic output by $4 billion.
The 17 million calling in sick sounds pretty solid. But the $4 billion in economic impact seems a bit squishy considering they are trying to quantify the economic impact of five minutes here and there on the game — when there is no AB comparison given that people engage in water cooler talk year-round.
Rod Thomson is an author, host of Tampa Bay Business with Rod Thomson on the Salem Radio Network, TV commentator and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod also is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.