In February, I wrote a column called "Prepare for the Economic Meltdown." I wasn't then and I'm not now a psychic, or even an economist. Even so, and as I noted in that piece, I used scientific public opinion data to help me read where the economy was going.
Back then, the numbers I saw from our polling suggested that Americans not only were convinced the nation was still in recession, but also that our chances for a full economic recovery in 2011 or even 2012 were not good.
Fast forward to this past week's news, which included one poll showing that two-thirds of the nation still believes we are in a recession. And a Wall Street Journal headline read, "Housing Imperils Recovery ... Consumer Confidence Falls as Pessimism Grows." Many other news organizations published similar sad stories.
Why is it that many pundits so desperately want us to believe that we were emerging from the recession, that the job market is getting better and that growth is returning to the economy? Perhaps it's because if the economy doesn't start improving -- or at least show signs that it soon might -- President Barack Obama's odds for re-election could be far longer.
Well, as of the week following Memorial Day 2011, let it be known with no uncertainty that things simply are not getting better. The conventional wisdom has had it that by hunting down Osama bin Laden, President Obama has made himself nearly impossible to beat in 2012. That view is no longer the conventional one. Rightly so.
Part of my theory that even investors might become gloomy this year is based on the simple fact that too many companies have cut their costs to the bone. This has allowed many of them to make impressive gains on their books compared to the corresponding financial quarter in 2010.
But they simply will not be able to continue doing this. They can't just keep cutting off more limbs and expect their corporate "bodies" to remain standing. And the jobs picture that was supposed to be looking prettier is now muddy again. Some economists believe the nation is on the verge of another Great Depression. This leads to an assessment of the current "conventional wisdom" about the 2012 presidential election. There are plenty of experts with all types of opinions that collectively make up what could be termed "early presidential conventional wisdom."