Just Call It What It Is Already

We are in a recession.

Does anyone doubt the truth of that statement? Our economy is contracting. It has been for some time now. Yet news outlets have been speaking about “signs of a recession” without actually saying that we are in one.

Now, I can understand it if the Bush Administration wants to deny the recession. The blame for the recession will be laid at its doorstep, whether fairly or not. But the rest of us? We have a scapegoat, he’s in his lame duck period right now. So what, exactly, is the aversion to calling the recession what it is?

Case in point: this article from the Associated Press today. Appropriately gloomy headline. The article notes a decline in inflation-adjusted GDP of 1.4% last quarter and .5% the quarter before that. That’s two successive quarters of GDP shrinkage, which by definition is an economy in recession. Yet the AP describes this as “…further proof the country is almost certainly in the throes of a painful recession.” (Empahsis added.)

“Almost?” There’s no “almost” about it. A woman is not “almost” pregnant. A patient does not “almost” have cancer. A light bulb is not “almost” off. Yes, there are degrees to all of these things (the woman may be in her first month of pregnancy, the cancer may be at an early stage, the light bulb may be on a dimmer and not emit enough light to be useful) but there is also a binary, quantum state of existence that is described (the woman, though in her first month, is nevertheless pregnant; the patient has cancer even if its symptoms are for the moment negligible; the light bulb has got electricity moving through it). This may not be a “deep” recession but it is a recession nevertheless.

And, in fact, it feels pretty deep to me.

So as part of my “no safe harbor” policy, the idea that calling something what it really is without euphemism or avoidance is the best way to fight it, I call on Readers and especially on news reporters to just go ahead and say it. Facts are facts; you don’t get to cherry-pick only the ones that are convenient or pleasant. We are in a recession.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.