MYRTLE BEACH Maybe everyone is missing the larger picture in the debate over economic and fiscal policy - that the economy is picking up steam despite all of the attempts by those in Washington to derail it.
We were warned that raising taxes - any taxes, ever, at all - would result in a slowed economy. And we've been warned that the ill-advised cuts via the sequester would do the same. While it is still too early to tell what will happen by the end of the year if we continue on the current path, the early results suggest that those fears could have been overblown.
And the latest reading from the initial weekly jobless claims out this morning is another reason to push back against the conventional wisdom. The claims dropped to 332,000, about a five-year-low and are now just about half of what they were at the height of the Great Recession. Even the less volatile month-average came in at 346,000, well within the range that suggests the jobs market is getting stronger. This comes on the heels of a surprising February unemployment report that saw 246,000 private-sector jobs created - two months after we allowed some of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire and revert back to Clinton-era levels.
Foreclosures dropped another 25 percent. Retail sales came in higher than expected. Gas prices in the Myrtle Beach and elsewhere have stabilized and are expected to avoid the highs we've seen in recent years.
The only big question seems to be what the good folks in Washington are going to do. Maybe the GOP was wrong about modest tax increases harming economic activity and the Democrats were wrong that cuts in government spending via the sequester would stop the recovery. (It has been documented for months now that a slow down in government spending did cut into the GDP reading in the fourth quarter and the unemployment rate would be about 7.2 percent instead of 7.7 percent without so many government job losses.)
But just imagine if we got something out of Washington that actually helped the economy - maybe a shot-in-the-arm for much-needed infrastructure spending in a package that includes tax and entitlement reform to get a handle on our long-term debt. How much better would things be?
Now if we can get more of the record-level corporate profits large companies are raking in to be shared more evenly with the everyday worker - and push up the average annual wage in Myrtle Beach, which is the lowest in the nation - then we would really be getting somewhere.