This morning, GOP chairman Michael Steele guest-hosted Bill Bennett’s talk radio show. During the program, one caller said he could “debate” whether or not the U.S. is currently in the midst of an economic crisis. Steele laughed in agreement and claimed that “[t]he malls are just as packed on Saturday.”:
CALLER: I can really debate about how about that economic crises is because I look around and I don’t see people spending any less money than they have been.
STEELE: I’ve heard a number of people say that across the country. [LAUGHTER] The malls are just as packed on Saturday. [LAUGHTER]
CALLER: The malls are just as packed. … You still can’t get seat in a restaurant.
Despite Steele’s claim that consumers are packing shopping malls, they don’t appear to be spending their money there. Indeed, Gallup found that last month consumer spending among all Americans reached a 15-month low and is 27 percent lower than last year’s figures.
Additionally, Reuters reported yesterday that vacancies at regional and strip malls are soaring to record highs:
Vacancies surged at U.S. strip malls in the first quarter and set a record at U.S. regional malls, as the deterioration in the retail real estate sector accelerated, according to real estate research firm Reis.
“I’m extremely skeptical,” Reis Research Director Victor Calanog said. “This is the first pullback we’ve seen in 17 years that really affected retail properties directly.” Vacancies at U.S. strip malls rose to 9.5 percent, up 0.6 percentage point, the largest single quarterly rise since Reis began publishing quarterly figures in 1999, Reis said in a quarterly report released on Wednesday.
The reasons for this are clear. Just yesterday, the Labor Department reported that 654,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits, while the “number of people staying on benefit rolls rose to a record 5.84 million in the prior week.”
More puzzling, however, is the fact that Steele has previously tried to portray himself as taking the curent economic crisis seriously. He’s spoken often about the need to stimulate the economy and critiqued Obama’s own attempts to do so. Now, however, Steele seems ready to dispense with the facade and admit that the economy is not something he understands as well as he should.
The Ctenocephalides Dogfather Says:
I was in a Northern Virginia mall recently and I too noticed that the crowds had thinned a little but not much. But more importantly — few people in the mall were carrying store bags.
So, Mikey, the malls may be “packed” but nobody’s buying anything. Instead, they’re just looking for a way to kill time in a climate-controlled environment while they recover from being laid off from work…