Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Most business reporters didn't see the Great Recession of 2008 coming, and political media knew Hillary Clinton would win.

Why it matters: As recession signals flash once again and the 2020 election looms, they're both over-correcting — afraid of missing the world's biggest story — again.

There are legitimate reasons to expect a recession, including economic slowdowns elsewhere, that pesky yield curve and the law of gravity. But there are just as many reasons to let the good times roll a while longer:

  • These include American consumers' continued spending, as reflected in recent earnings reports from Lowe's and Target.
  • That balance got lost in favor of "RECESSION" headlines, with reporters preferring to (maybe) overstate risk than to possibly let readers (maybe) saunter off a cliff.
  • There already have been unintended consequences, possibly upsetting the economic balance. Axios' Alayna Treene reports that President Trump became obsessed with media reaction to the August stock drop, leading to him compulsively float tax cuts before changing course less than 24 hours later.
  • It also could affect consumers, with one congressional aide arguing: "Panic begets panic — and the more you talk about something, the more likely it is to happen." Indeed, consumer confidence just experienced its largest monthly drop in nearly seven years.
  • Between the lines: Reporters aren't talking about a looming recession in order to cost Trump his job, as he claimed via tweet. They're talking about it to protect their own.

There are legitimate reasons to believe Trump will be re-elected, including his base's unshakable devotion. But, in the pre-Trump era, any incumbent with his current math would be treated like a dead man walking: 

  • Imagine if any president besides Trump had a 41% approval rating, was losing to their top five opponents, and was more unpopular than popular in states they have to win again? Imagine this president trailed all of their top potential rivals in virtually all of the swing states. 
  • But the N.Y. Times' Nate Cohn reminds us: "Trump’s Electoral College Edge Could Grow in 2020." And the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman writes for NBC News: "How Trump could lose by 5 million votes and still win."
  • Trump, of course, gave all of us good reason in '16 to stop assuming we know what voters want or will do.

The bottom line: Reporters, like generals, tend to fight the last war.

Go deeper: Trump resistance media rising

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 10,890,511 — Total deaths: 521,694 — Total recoveries — 5,772,017Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 2,739,879 — Total deaths: 128,740 — Total recoveries: 781,970 — Total tested: 33,462,181Map.
  3. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Regeneron stops trial after drug fails to help patientsWhat we know about the coronavirus immune response — Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  4. Business: Top business leaders urge the White House to develop mandatory mask guidelines.
  5. Politics: Herman Cain hospitalized for COVID-19 after attending Trump Tulsa rally — Biden downplays jobs number, rebukes Trump for ignoring health crisis.
  6. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.
  7. States: Texas mandates face masks in public spaces Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases, and its most-infected county issues curfew.

Markets swell as the economy shrinks

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The economy is sputtering, but the markets are thriving — a highly unusual event that shows how the coronavirus has thrown all bets off.

Why it matters: The disconnect adds to the wealth gap. The richest 10% of households — who own 84% of stocks — are getting richer, while millions of out-of-work Americans cross their fingers that pandemic unemployment benefits will be extended.

12 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Coronavirus surges mark a "very disturbing week" in the U.S.

Fauci testifies to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 30. Photo: Al Drago/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told medical journal JAMA on Thursday that it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.

What's happening: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.