EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Columns

December 8, 2012

If it's not a recession, then what is it?

One of the supposed risks of the Washington crisis of the moment – falling off the “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1 – is that the automatic tax increases and spending cuts it would trigger will plunge the nation into another recession.

Another? I’m still wondering when the first one is going to end.

Yes, it has officially been over for several years now. But if George W. Bush had been running for re-election this past fall, he would have been mocked on every front page and from every mainstream television anchor chair if he had suggested that 8 percent unemployment meant the country was out of recession.

And interestingly (but not surprisingly) enough, now that President Obama is safely re-elected, even those supposedly mainstream outlets seem to be a bit more willing to report that things are not so good.

Indeed, if this is what a recovery looks like, we need to change the definition. The economy is “growing,” barely, but not fast enough even to keep up with the number of people entering the labor force.

Here are a few other examples:

We heard from Obama during the endless presidential campaign that one of the reasons to re-elect him was that the economy was moving in the right direction, thanks to “the policies we’ve put in place.” He said electing Republican Mitt Romney would take us “right back to the policies that got us in this mess in the first place.”

But now, one of the concerns of the administration (and state officials around the country) about the fiscal cliff is that it would end the current 99 weeks of unemployment, supposedly put in place to help people hit by the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

If the recession is really over, why is there even any discussion about letting people continue to collect for nearly two years? Why isn’t 26 weeks (30 in some cases) more than enough?

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