One of the perks of having been in the news business for four decades is the chance to watch the sausage being made. It is simultaneously fascinating and repulsive to watch narratives be developed with words and phrases carefully crafted to elicit maximum emotional engagement and predictable Pavlovian responses.
Earlier this week it became obvious that Friday’s announcement of GDP numbers was going to show negative GDP growth for the second consecutive quarter. That has been the traditional definition of a “recession.” You don’t need an ECON degree to make that determination. That has simply been the way a recession has been defined for decades. For better or for worse.
But there is a problem. You see “recession” is a word that has VERY high negatives. All of the spin doctoring in the world will not convince people that a recession is anything other than a very bad thing. I have seen Democrats AND Republicans try and spin the definition of the word for more than thirty years. They can’t. That negative connotation is set in stone and will take generations to change. And of course with mid-term Congressional elections on the horizon, the R-Word is quite the albatross for the party that controls the Executive and Legislative branches.
So what does the ruling party do when we get into a recession? They do something that infuriates me. They try and tell us we’re not ACKSHUALLY in a recession. We started seeing the op-eds Monday from the dutiful and faithful stenographers in the mainstream media. Then the President’s lickspittles began parroting the line. The consistently-incorrect Paul Krugman weighed in Wednesday. And the once-honorable Associated Press offered their help as well.
Never mind that this week’s report will most certainly meet the traditional definition of two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. No, the rules are different with a Democrat in the White House. The Associated Press today upped the ante by attempting to change the traditional definition. The strategy is simple. Since the Democrat’s lapdogs can’t change people’s views of the word “recession,” they’ll simply try and change the definition.
The new definition banks on the fact that current jobless rates are quite low. The spin goes that since “everyone is working,” it cannot be a recession. That is, of course, horsesqueeze. First off, not everyone is working. We have had more than a few people who have dropped out of the work force, calculating that they can live well enough on the public assistance they receive without having to punch a clock. Secondly, jobless rates have little to do with a nation’s overall economic health. If it did the former Soviet Union (0% unemployment) would have been the greatest economy in world history. It was not.
Ask yourself this. If these exact same numbers were occurring four years ago during the Trump administration, would we be seeing this same shameless effort and spin-doctoring from the “unbiased” mainstream media? Look into the mirror and be honest. The NYT would be calling it the “Worst Recession EVAH!” The WapPo would be inundated with stock photos from the Great Depression. You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there has never been in a point in modern history where the media has treated two consecutive negative GDP quarters as anything other than a recession. They did it when GHWB was in office. And they would have GLEFULLY done it if these numbers occurred during the GWB or Trump administrations.
I almost feel sorry for the media. They are tasked with taking a terrible economy and trying to make it appear palatable in order for Democrats to not suffer an historic bloodbath in the mid-term elections. James Carville in his prime would have struggled to pull something like that off.
Of course, that is not SUPPOSED to be their job, is it?