Media denial and splitting hairs over definition of recession ‘totally missing the boat’, economic experts say
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Media outlets that engage in semantics about whether the United States is in a recession are “missing the boat” and damaging their own credibility, economic experts told Fox News Digital.
The Washington Post, CNN, New York Times and others adopted the White House’s definition of a recession on Thursday after GDP figures showed consecutive quarters of negative growth as the US economy enters a recession, and pundits on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and elsewhere have also hyped the notion of “fears” of a recession, rather than acknowledging that the US is going through one now, by definition, one.
“They’re playing the game of are we in it or are we not in it? And it’s totally missing the boat. And because people have been through it, they know the media is missing the boat,” said Brian Brenberg, professor of business and economics at King’s College Manhattan and Fox News contributor. “That’s why it hurts their credibility, because it’s not theoretical. It’s very practical.”
CNN’s front page headline described the news as crossing a “symbolic recessionary threshold”, and its report also used “fuelling recession fears”. The report describes the technical definition of a recession as the “unofficial” definition. A Business Insider article on Thursday, titled “Today’s GDP numbers don’t tell us if we’re in a recession – and we won’t know until we’re already in the middle of a crisis,” said said the GDP figures. did not provide “clarity” on the state of the US economy.
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CNN’s left-leaning White House correspondent John Harwood came under fire after retweeting a Politico article this week, whose author Ben White commented, “The White House is obviously right that even two quarterbacks of the decline in GDP would not show that the economy is currently in recession.” Yet Harwood, then with CNBC, tweeted during the Trump administration in 2019, “recession = economy shrinks for two quarters.”
“Under Trump, it was important to speak truth to power and not have alternative facts,” Scott Whitlock of the curator Media Research Center told Fox News Digital. “But now we’re seeing a willingness to just accept what the Biden administration says. A recession would be very bad news for Democrats entering the midterms. So reporters are all too happy to help Biden avoid to use the R-word.”
On-air news segments from liberal media saw presenters and guests push back on the notion that the US economy is now in recession, and instead took note of other strong economic indicators. Additionally, some figures claimed that negative growth was a feature, not a bug, of the Federal Reserve’s plan to slow inflation.
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“It’s going to be hard for people to hear,” John Berman told CNN Newsroom at the table. “That’s the kind of reaction Jerome Powell might want to see, which is to cool things down a bit.”
MSNBC’s “Squawk Box” co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin made similar statements when he claimed that negative GDP growth was “meant to happen.” He added that the word “recession” became “political football” that would determine the midterm publicity against the Democratic Party. “CBS Mornings” co-host Nate Burleson also called the recession a “buzzword.”
Other segments on CNN, CBS News, MSNBC, NBC News and ABC News largely refrained from saying the country is in a recession, pointing to job growth and consumer spending. ABC’s “The View” pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the subject on Thursday, saying there was a “disconnect” between how Americans feel and Biden’s rhetoric. that there would be no recession.
“We’ve had this strong economic growth thanks to the work the president has done over the past 18 months, and now we’re seeing a transition to stable and steady growth,” Jean-Pierre said.
Fox News Digital previously reported numbers from the New York Times, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Washington Post, CNN and elsewhere that appeared to adopt the talking points of an array of economic numbers from Biden attempting to preempt the likely lackluster report from the second trimester. It found on Thursday that GDP fell 0.9% on an annualized basis from May to June.
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Brenberg said members of the media “splitting hairs” over the definition hurt their credibility.
“I think the best indicator of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, because that means you’ve had a downturn, a significant downturn in the economy,” Brenberg said. “And I think, you know, all the media hubbub about whether or not it’s missing the point. If you have two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, you have an economic problem. And all the world outside of the media knows that, anyone who’s not freaking out over definitions knows that and so trying to play around with that, to me, one isn’t helpful, but two isn’t believable People lose faith in leaders who spend time splitting hairs over definitions.”
Brenberg said a recession in 2022 was not inevitable but was the result of “big policy mistakes,” like the $1.9 trillion US bailout President Biden signed into office after taking office. as well as the Fed’s failure to act on inflation last year, when many officials still called it “transitional.”
As Biden economic adviser Brian Deese noted last week, the GDP numbers are “retrospective,” but Brenberg said the idea that the numbers are fueling recession “fears” fundamentally misses the point.
“Remember that the data we got today is retrospective. It tells us what has happened before. This is the point that I think the media misses… The data from today indicate that the recession is here. It’s been here for six months,” he said. . “So it’s not that people’s fears are stoked because you tell them about things to come. People already know that. They already know how they spent. They already know how stretched their budgets are. They’ve been through this.”
He called on the press to ask policymakers what the way out is, rather than fighting a rhetorical battle.
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PRICE Futures Group senior market analyst Phil Flynn, a FOX Business contributor, said if it wasn’t a recession, maybe it should be called a “bi-cession.” in honor of Biden.
“I think that’s a dumb argument, isn’t it? I mean, there’s no doubt that growth is slowing down. I think there are certain sectors that are doing better than others. But the industry that matters most to America, you know, is the average everyday American, right? And how are they?” Flynn said. “You have record inflation . You have a situation where you have people trying to decide if they can afford gas or food. And, it’s really, you know, removed from the fact that this job market is still relatively strong and the wages are still relatively good. But, you know, it doesn’t matter if your salaries are good, if everything is more expensive.
News of the recession came the same week the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 75 basis points for a second consecutive month, in a bid to cool the economy and record inflation that has hurt Americans . Flynn said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who like the rest of the Biden administration seemed caught off guard by the inflation that has plagued the United States for a year, seemed hopeful the recession would be temporary. .
“He hopes the recession will be mild,” Flynn said. “And if that’s the case, then the Fed is going to look a lot smarter, I mean, in a few weeks. But if things start to get worse, you know, if we start seeing layoffs, if we we start to see, you know, companies like Walmart saying profits are bad or Target or some of these other companies start laying off workers, it could create a real scare in the economy We could have a recession a lot deeper, and there’s nothing the Fed can do about government spending, right?”
Semantic battles over the term “recession” are secondary to how Americans actually feel, Flynn explained, and polls repeatedly show Americans citing high prices and the economy as their top concern.
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“I don’t think they teach economics in school like they used to, and I don’t think the average American cares about, you know, the technical definition of a recession,” said- he declared. “They don’t. They want to see if their life improves.”
Fox News’ Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.