I think it was President Kennedy who pined for a "one handed economist" because his economic advisors were always telling him "on the one hand," his policies would lead to this, and "on the other hand," his policies would do the opposite.
You get that frustration from Kennedy reading this Wall Street Journal article by Phil Izzo on inflation predictions over the next year by 56 leading economists:
On average, the 56 surveyed economists, not all of whom answer every question, expect tame inflation, forecasting consumer prices in December will be just 1.8% above year-earlier levels.
But there was a wide variance in the estimates which ranged from predictions of no increase in prices at all to a 4.4% increase. Consumer prices barely rose in March from February, and increased 2.3% over the previous year.
When asked what presents a bigger risk over the next year, 23 economists said accelerating inflation and 23 said slowing inflation. That mirrors a divide inside the Federal Reserve. At their March policy meeting, some officials argued the downturn in house prices is causing key measures to understate prices increases; others focused on the decline in inflation measures that exclude food and energy. Chairman Ben Bernanke appears to be in the latter camp.
What about growth and unemployment?
On average, the economists expect the unemployment rate, currently at 9.7%, to fall to just 9.3% by December while the economy adds around 1.9 million jobs over the next 12 months. The survey found that, on average, the economists expect the U.S. economy to expand at about a 3% annual rate in each of the four quarters of this year, although three-quarters said growth is more likely to be stronger than weaker than their forecast.
Economists continued to push back their expectations for when the Fed will begin raising rates. On average, the economists don't expect the central bank to move until November; two months earlier they were predicting September. But predictions ranged widely from June 2010 to January 2012.
Unemployment over 9% in November? Can you say "Tsunami?"