The “mindlessly cheerful” science

That’s what CAW chief economist Jim Stanford calls economics as it’s practiced by industry economists in Canada today, in a piece that takes BMO’s Doug Porter and his ilk to task for their continued cheerleading about the contracting Canadian economy:

What’s as shocking to me as the actual numbers (which are very negative) was the “what me worry” attitude — not just of Jim Flaherty (Finance Ministers are paid to keep smiling at a time like this), but the whole economics profession as well. It’s as if the economists believe their own rose-coloured view of Canada’s brave new resource-led prospects so fervently, they refuse to let mere statistical evidence get in the way.

Here’s an example of what Stanford is targeting, courtesy of a CIBC write-up on the weak Q1 GDP reading: “Canada is sputtering now, but will count its blessings as a resource exporter in the coming years.” And here’s Flaherty: “If some people are saying (Canada is entering a recession), I disagree with them.”

Stanford also takes a hatchet to the pervasive “GDP doesn’t matter meme”:

And the old mantra is still being heard wide and far that real GDP is now a deceptively weak indicator of Canada’s “true” strength. That’s a bunch of wishful thinking as shaky as the old line (from the dot-com boom times) that “price-earnings ratios are no longer a measure of true value.” Yes, aggregate national income looks stronger than GDP because of super-high resource incomes. But those incomes are not trickling down, remotely proportionately, into personal incomes in Canada.

Good to know someone’s keeping the dismal in the dismal science.