Monday, March 30, 2009

The Not-So Pervasive Recession

Recessions aren’t supposed to be bad everywhere (although they can be). Rather, the standard is that they be reasonably nationwide.

From the start, this recession hasn’t been that way. Big swaths of the country have been bordering on OK. Not good or even fair, but OK.

A case in point of this is the map in the article entitled “Many Smaller Cities Dodge Crunch In Consumer Lending” from the March 30 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

The map purports to show the many small cities around the country that are doing OK on this point. This borders on a lie.

The map shows clearly in red the major urban areas that are struggling on this count: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Kansas City and Detroit. And that’s it. OK … I’ll throw in some of the other places in California – like the OC, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Oakland, Berkeley, and Bakersfield.

In green are the “small” cities that are doing OK. You know, small places like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix (!!!), Seattle, Orlando, Miami, Nashville, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Austin, Charlotte, Richmond, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Baltimore, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville, Jackson, New Orleans (!!!), Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Anchorage, and so on. Gosh … eventually … by squinting … I did get to some small metropolitan areas.

The take-away from this is that there’s probably no way I can instill in you a BS filter strong enough to deal with the inability of journalists to report macroeconomics accurately.

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