A Retail Drop Gets Lost in the Spin Cycle

March's consumer spending decline becomes an improbable political prop

Was it the snowstorm? Or a more serious drop in consumer confidence? It isn't surprising that different people wanted to spin the decline in March retail sales in different ways; what was curious was who picked which way. Republicans, who might normally ascribe the 1% decline, the steepest in two years, to Clintonite economic malaise, swore it was a temporary glitch in a continuing recovery, caused by the March blizzard that kept East Coast consumers from shopping. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who would be expected to agree with the anomalous act-of-God explanation, instead declared gravely that "recovery is at risk." The...

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