Economy showing improvement

Wall Street

Today’s lead story in POLITICO deals with some good economic news.

Washington has tried very hard this year to crush the economy with debt ceiling fights, clumsy budget cuts, a government shutdown and complete legislative gridlock. It does not appear to be working.

Nearly every recent report shows an economy picking up at least a little speed heading into 2014: The jobless rate is falling, house prices are rising, the stock market is soaring and overall economic growth just handily beat expectations. Friday’s employment report is expected to show another gain of somewhere close to 200,000 jobs, suggesting the economy has shrugged off the most recent Beltway blows.

The numbers themselves are not quite as good as they appear. And there are still several ways Washington could make them even worse next year, from more poorly designed spending cuts and bitter fighting over Obamacare to a potentially botched effort by the Federal Reserve to tap the breaks on its unprecedented stimulus efforts.

A fresh round of fiscal brinksmanship leading to a shutdown or debt limit scare next year seems unlikely. But it cannot be ruled out. In fact, while most Wall Street economists expect growth to pick up in 2014, they still rate government dysfunction as the leading risk factor. More…