Questions from usually friendly news outlets about a looming recession made Biden officials squirm uncomfortably.
This past weekend, Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” Host Chuck Todd asked Yellen what figure was most important to her in determining economic strength. Yellen responded:
Well, I look at all the data, and GDP will be closely watched. A common definition of recession is two negative quarters of GDP growth, or at least that’s something that’s been true in past recessions. When we have seen that, there has usually been a recession. And many economists expect second-quarter GDP to be negative. First-quarter GDP was negative, so we could see that happen, and that will be closely watched. But I do want to emphasize, what a recession really means is a broad-based contraction in the economy. And even if that number is negative, we are not in a recession now, and I would, you know, warn that we should be not characterizing that as a recession.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
Todd pushed back on Yellen’s tap dance, claiming that the Treasury Secretary was “splitting hairs.”
Another Biden surrogate, White House Council of Economic Advisers’ Jared Bernstein, echoed Yellen’s narrative, stating on CNN that a number of measurables of economic growth were “inconsistent with recession”
You can watch both exchanges below:
Yet another Biden staffer, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, also rejected the traditional definition of recession.Also appearing on CNN, Fox News reported that Deese stated that figures showing a second consecutive quarter of negative GDP growth are “inherently backward-looking.”
“I think the bottom line is, if you look at the labor market, if you look at what consumers are spending, what businesses and households are investing, you continue to see this resilience. But that’s no reason for complacency,”National Economic Council Director Brian Deese
Yellen and the other Biden officials here are portraying traits of a Buffoon we like to call the “Agenda Gymnast“. Like a contortionist, these Biden officials squirm and twist uncomfortably to avoid an inconvenient truth. In this case, the inconvenient truth is that the economy under the Biden administration’s stewardship is tanking towards a looming recession. That’s another grim prospect in a term of several grim economic prospects like rapid inflation. Yellen and the other Biden advisers are trying to head off that grim prospect.
What better way to head that off that talk of recession than to do play a little word game? While these Biden officials squirm, they also attempt to claim to possess greater expertise than whoever is interviewing them. Don’t believe that “simple” definition of a recession, they say. We know better, they say. And then, they throw out economic jargon meant to bedazzle the average listener. That’s the attempt at mental contortion.
As Chuck Todd rightly pointed out (and wow, are we really complimenting him?), Treasury Secretary Yellen is indeed splitting hairs. Should the second quarter numbers show negative growth as many expect, the traditionally accepted definition of a “recession” would apply. Why shouldn’t it?
In the end, all the mental gymnastics may not be enough to save the Biden administration from further failure should the second quarter numbers indicate further contraction. We expect many more examples of Biden officials squirming in the future as the bad news piles on.