So-Called Fact Checkers Come to Defense of White House "Redefining" Recession
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The administration that has redefined the words "women," "disinformation," "domestic terrorist," "insurrectionist," "voter supression," and "illegal alien" has now come for the word "recession" ahead of GDP data being released Thursday.
In anticipation of that data, the White House has began trying to cast doubt on the standard and most widely used definition of a recession; when there is two consecutive negative quarters of economic growth.
In response, the fact checkers didn't come out of the woodwork to correct them, but rather to come to their defense.
For some background, the National Bureau of Economic Research gets the official say on declaring whether or not the U.S. is in recession (and negative growth is a massive component in making that decision), which is basically what the following "fact checks" are premised on. As always, the purpose of the "fact check" is to be a censor for the regime. They and the administration are well aware that if Thursday's GDP report is negative (which would be two straight quarters), it'll be widely reported that the U.S. economy has fallen into recession. But because of the "fact checker" articles out there, anyone reporting this on Facebook or Twitter will have those posts declaring a recession flagged as "misinformation."
The administration and fact checkers' strategy is bolsetered by the fact that the NBER often doesn't declare that a recession had occurred until they're over, meaning that if the NBER does end up contradicting the administration and officially declares that the economy was in recession in the beginning of 2022, that could be months away, allowing the denial and poor fact checking to go unchecked.
Newsweek "fact checker' Tom Norton rated it "false" that the White House redefined the word "recession," and points out that the National Bureau of Economic Research uses other variables too in determining if the U.S. is in recession, such as real personal income, employment, consumer spending, and industrial production, and that there are no "fixed rules or thresholds" for those variables. The Associated Press' Christopher Rugaber made a similar argument, acknowledging that the "two quarters" definition is the "common definition" for a recession, but "isn't the one that counts." This is all semantics, and effectively is just fact checking anyone specifically accusing the White House of changing the "official" definition of recession instead of the "most commonly used" definition.
As such, these sort of "fact checks" fall in the "technically true but wildly misleading" category." It's "technically true" only in that there is no official definition for a recession, but the "two quarters" definition has become nearly-universally used for a reason. Only once in history, back in 1947, was there a case where there was two consecutive quarters of negative growth and a recession wasn't declared by the NBER. In every single other case where there was two consecutive quarters of growth, a recession was declared.
The only other exceptions to the "two consecutive negative quarter" rule were in 2001, when the NBER declared a recession in a year where there was negative economic growth in the first and third quarter of the year, and the 2020 recession, which lasted only two months. Or in other words, a case where a recession was called when there was two quarters of negative growth, but non-consecutive, and one where there was a recession called when there was less than two quarters of decline (due to the severity of the decline).
The NBER's Business Cycle Dating Committee's general definition for recession is even less severe than the "two quarters" definition, defining one as: "a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.”
The entirety of the media has used the two-quarters definition over the years (as you can see in the compilation video below), so it'll be interesting if the same networks change their tune and fall in line with the Biden admin's talking points if the GDP figures come back negative tomorrow.
Amusingly, while the fact checkers are hoping the NBER doesn't call a recession, the mainstream media seems to be hedging against them calling one. Just last month, CNN's Business section ran an article complaining that "eight white economists you've never heard of" get to decide what a recession is.
Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros
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