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September 05, 2011

Obama: I Pulled Our Country Back From The Brink
PS, Sidenote, I Also Put The Country Back On The Brink

He didn't say the last part. I just thought I should add that in, for context and all.

n his Labor Day message to the nation, President Obama credits himself and his administration with having "pulled our country back from the brink" of economic disaster.

"In the last several years, we have pulled our country back from the brink, through a series of tough economic decisions," Obama writes. "While we have come far, great challenges still face us."

According to the Labor Department, the national unemployment rate stood at 7.6 percent when Obama inherited a faltering economy from George W. Bush in January 2009. Unemployment rose to 10.2 percent by October 2009, and, with the exception of February and March 2011, it has been at 9 percent or higher ever since. It was 9.1 percent in August -- a month in which the economy created no new jobs. In addition, economic growth has slowed nearly to zero, raising fears that the country is entering another recession.

Obama is left with the claim that he should be credited for supposedly spurring some growth in 2010 (almost none at all in 2011), but should not be charged with the subsequent stall-out in growth, or the likely recession we're already in.

Here's a little correction for you: I have repeatedly, authoritatively proclaimed that a "recession" is defined as two back to back quarters of sub-zero GDP growth.

I said this because I thought it was true. But then, I think a lot of things are true. I'm a lunatic.

The National Bureau of Economic Research explicitly says that is not how they mark recessions, at least not anymore.

The Committee does not have a fixed definition of economic activity. It examines and compares the behavior of various measures of broad activity: real GDP measured on the product and income sides, economy-wide employment, and real income. The Committee also may consider indicators that do not cover the entire economy, such as real sales and the Federal Reserve's index of industrial production (IP).

On one hand, taking a gestalt view of the economy now, they could easily say we're in a fresh recession, and have been in one for a few months, at least.

On the other hand, a vague, multifactor subjective definition gives them plenty of wiggle room in calling a stall, and they can either claim there is no recession (even if it sure looks like there is) or they could perhaps "reanalyze" the data and claim the previous recession didn't end (despite their previous claims that it had), and so this continues to be, as a formal matter, the recession that began under Bush.

I'm not really sure a formal announcement of what is clearly evident anyway will matter that much. A little, I suppose, as the media would be required to at least note this troublesome fact. But most people say the recession never ended and certainly doesn't seem to be ending now.

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posted by Ace at 01:23 PM

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