The U.S. economy grew at a slower pace in the first quarter of 2012, increasing concerns about the health of the recovery. The blow was softened by a rise in consumer spending, however.
The Commerce Department, in its initial reading of how the economy fared as the new year began, reported Friday that gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first three months of the year. That's down from a 3.0 percent rate in the fourth quarter and below economists' expectations of a 2.5 percent pace.
A surge in consumer spending took some of the sting from the report. Growth was still stronger than analysts' predictions early in the quarter for an expansion below 1.5 percent.
There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama's White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration's challenge to Arizona's attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration's understanding of federal power: "Solicitor General Donald Verrilli . . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told Verrilli his argument is 'not selling very well.' " This follows last month's embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare.
All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one's in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics but not day-to-day governance. The two most public cabinet members are Eric Holder at Justice and Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security. He is overseeing the administration's Supreme Court cases. She is in charge of being unmoved by the daily stories of Transportation Security Administration incompetence and even cruelty at our airports. Those incidents and stories continue, but if you go to the Homeland Security website, there is no mention of them. It's as if they don't even exist.