The right-wing talking heads are pouncing on the President today for the annual economic growth rate slowing to 1.5% (still growing BTW), calling it "Worst Recovery Since WWII." This is below the 2-3% growth predicted by "experts" earlier in the year.
I was talking to my sister in St. Louis last night where the heat wave has been relentless. Leaving a meeting on Wednesday, her car thermometer read 117 degrees. She was going to stop at the store for groceries but the heat was so brutal she rushed straight home to the safety and comfort of her air conditioner. It does not mean she will never go to the store again but the weather in this small example affected her buying patterns.
It is common sense that dangerous and unprecedented heat waves would slow the economy (as the more common and more expected extreme winter weather affects the economy). I have seen a number of anecdotal examples of this in recent weeks, including my completely unscientific "parking lot" survey.
Even here in the Southeast where we are prepared and equipped to handle long stretches of summer heat, when the temperature stays above 105 for days on end (as it did at the end of June and beginning of July) just walking outdoors across the parking lot from the car to the store can become a dangerous adventure. This is especially true for those of us who are very young or very old. The extreme heat affects all "parking lot commerce" whether from restaurants or shopping malls or home improvement stores. In addition, unusually high heat overwhelms the ways outdoor workers are accustomed to managing the heat.
We assume a blizzard would defer shopping trips and construction projects until the weather clears. We are finding that the same economic "freeze" can occur during unusually high blasts of heat but we are less accustomed to accounting for the economic slow down from extreme heat. Since the economy is the political justification being offered for replacing the President, we need to know what is truly moving the economy.
I offer one quick example of my parking lot survey. There is a "Big Boy" type restaurant not far from my house. While it has been affected by the larger downturn in the economy, the parking lot is always packed at lunchtime during the week. The cheap "all-you-can-eat" buffet is a huge draw for construction workers, local store clerks and others looking for a bargain lunch. When the temperature was over 105 for the third day in a row I was shocked to see only four cars in the parking lot as I drove by. I stopped in later in the week and asked the owner about business. He said business was down 20% year over year for the month of June and he was very worried about July. He blamed the heat. (Fortunately we have cooled down to our normal high nineties for the last couple of weeks.)
The attacks on the President and his administration for their economic policies are going to be increasing over the coming months. If the economy slows further it will only fan the flames of political heat. We who prefer truth over expedient hyperbole need to stay focused on the true reasons for our economic distress. Worst recovery since WWII? Yes. The worst recovery since WWII is the only result possible after the worst economic collapse since WWII complicated by unpredictable economic consequences of unprecedented climate change. It is still good and right to point to the Bush/Cheney economic policies and to the Bush/Cheney ecological policies (see: Kyoto Protocol) as the responsible parties for our slower than expected economic growth. We still pay dearly for the Republican, Bush/Cheney failures.