Donald Lambro

-- Manufacturing shipments have been "solid," says David Malpass, chief economist at Bear Stearns. Factory shipments rose a healthy 1.1 percent in August and have increased 5.8 percent since the second quarter.

--There are some signs the housing market may be bouncing back, too. New home sales rose by 4.3 percent in August, mortgage rates are falling, and Malpass sees "demographic support for more housing, which should begin to soften the housing slowdown."

-- America of course is still building at a healthy pace in the commercial construction sector. In a year-over-year comparison of August's data, non-residential construction increased by 23.8 percent ($312 billion)

-- Recent consumer confidence surveys show that Americans are still bullish about their economic future and they're spending accordingly. Retail sales have been decent and real consumption growth is forecast to run between 3.2 percent and 3.5 percent in the third quarter.

-- The economy has grown by over 4 percent so far this year, though there are forecasts of slightly slower growth in this quarter. Even so, we're looking at an annual growth rate of better than 3 percent for 2006, which is healthy by any standard.

-- All of this growth is producing higher tax revenues, both for the feds and the states, and that is driving down the budget deficit much faster than anyone predicted. The deficit fell to less than $260 billion for the fiscal year that just ended.

That's still way too high, but it is much lower than the $300 billion the administration forecast in July and way below the $424 billion deficit that the White House predicted in its February budget.

At this pace, Bush will be well ahead of his promise to slash the deficit in half by the end of his second term, when it is projected to fall to $188 billion. With unemployment dropping to a 4.6 percent low, jobless benefit claims down and with auto companies reporting 16.6 million (annual rate) autos and light trucks sold in September, this economy's record deserves more promotion than it has been getting.

Expect to hear more about it from Bush and the Republicans before Election Day.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.