Since the Biden administration sought to redefine what a recession is in the wake of this week’s economic contraction news, numerous media outlets have adopted the White House’s talking points. Now, there are individual journalists who are abandoning the traditional definition they once held.
The Commerce Department revealed this week that the U.S. economy has suffered two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth, a measure of a prolonged recession, but many Biden officials have insisted that is only the business of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The cycle dating committee can determine whether the US economy is in a recession, based on a number of factors that can only be detected months or even a year after a recession begins.
Ben White, Politico’s chief economic correspondent, included the spin in his report on Thursday, claiming that the new data “gives Republicans an attractive opportunity to declare that the economy is now in a recession under President Joe Biden.”
“The Commerce Department’s report on gross domestic product in the April-June period (0.9 percent) showed a 1.6 percent decline in the first quarter, and while far from the criteria for an economic recession — it does meet the criteria. First estimates and subject to future revisions,” White wrote. “But Republicans all Economic technicalities aside, Democratic candidates are poised to overcome an already unpopular economy on the midterm ballot and among voters in both parties.”
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On the eve of the economic report, White defended the Biden administration, tweeting, “The White House is clearly correct that even a two-quarter contraction of GDP would not indicate the economy is currently in recession.”
White didn’t believe it when he wrote in the Politico newspaper last month, “I’m sad to report that conditions are right for gross domestic product growth that lasts at least two quarters, the technical definition of a recession.”
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Additionally, in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, White tweeted, “The IHS just downgraded Q1 growth to -2.1%. Others are also turning negative. Double digit declines in the second quarter. All of which means we’re in a rut.” A recession right now.”
Responding to critics on Thursday, White said his original analysis was “a bad tweet from a while ago” and that he “should have known better at the time.”
White’s new explanation of what a recession is and his defense of the Biden administration was embraced by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle, who tweeted, “Good read thanks.”
In addition to supporting the White House’s turnaround, Ruhl downplayed the dire economic situation and insisted that the U.S. has a “complex economy” rather than a “bad one.”
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But in 2019, NBC Business analysts were able to offer a more straightforward definition of the recession.
“A recession is just two quarters of an economic decline,” Ruhle told then-MSNBC host Brian Williams.
CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood has been retweeting people rejecting the “technical” definition of recession.
In addition to Ben White’s tweet, Harwood shared a tweet from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote “So many news reports that we’ve entered a ‘tech recession’ – which doesn’t exist. Here it is. [Goldman Sachs]: ‘The official definition of a recession is a judgmental combination of levels and rates of change in several variables, most of which continued to expand in the first half of the year.’
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He shared another from economist Mark Zandi, who tweeted that “there was no recession in H1 of the year, despite two consecutive quarters of GDP declines, but recession looks more difficult to avoid in the coming year” as well as the committee’s Mark Goldwein. Responsible Federal Budget, which states “1) No, 2 quarters of negative economic growth does not mean we are in a recession 2) Just because we are not in a recession, does not mean the economy is doing well —- it is not.”
Harwood himself tweeted in 2019, “Recession can’t just last two months = economy shrinks in two quarters.”
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In March 2020 he went even further, telling CNN’s Don Lemmon, “Even if you don’t have two quarters of negative growth in a row, you can have a quarter of growth so deep that it’s classified as a recession.”
Earlier in the week, the Associated Press published an “explanation” for knowing when a recession has begun, telling readers, “By a common definition, the U.S. economy is on the brink of a recession. That’s not the definition, though. It’s what counts.”
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“On Thursday, when the government released its estimate of gross domestic product for the April-June period, some economists said it would show the economy shrank for a second straight quarter. It would fulfill a long-held perception of when a recession began,” AP reporter Christopher Rugaber wrote Monday. . But economists say that doesn’t mean a recession has begun. In the same six months when the economy contracted, businesses and other employers added 2.7 million jobs — more than they did in the entire year before the pandemic. Wages are also growing at a healthy pace, with many employers Still struggling to attract and retain enough workers.”
But in January 2022, the AP was quick to declare a recession for the country of Mexico, saying, “Mexico’s economy entered a technical recession late last year with two consecutive quarters of contraction.”