CNHI News Service


December 7, 2012

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

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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?

Because, no matter what the official description of the economy is, we’re still in a recession – a recession that Obama can no longer keep blaming on somebody else. Real unemployment is at least several points greater than the official number.

Here’s another: That shell of what used to be called the greatest newspaper in the world, the New York Times, just announced that it needs to cut another 30 people from its newsroom.

Executive editor Jill Abramson wrote in a letter to the paper’s staff that, “I hope the needed savings can be achieved through voluntary buyouts, but if not, I will be forced to go to layoffs …”

The reason? Even though the Times – a constant Obama cheerleader – is making millions more in digital subscriptions, its advertising remains in freefall. Do you think in a truly growing economy it would be having that problem?

Elsewhere, the promise of a glorious future of green energy jobs remains just a promise – a fading promise. It is not just Solyndra, the most high-profile case of a solar company going bankrupt even after an injection of about a half-billion dollars in federal support.

Signet Solar, another California firm, just filed for bankruptcy after ceasing operations more than two years ago.

In October, two Massachusetts clean energy companies – solar equipment manufacturer Satcon Technology Corp. and battery maker A123 Systems – filed for bankruptcy protection. Satcon had laid off 140 employees in January, and had defaulted on $16 million in debt.

Citigroup just announced it will eliminate 11,000 jobs. Good thing they’re one of those evil, big corporations, and nobody will get hurt because, you know, corporations aren’t people.

Of course, government is hurting too. Now that Obama has been re-elected, flaming liberals have suddenly discovered that raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires is not going to be enough to feed the endlessly “compassionate” beast.

Columnist Farah Stockman wrote this past week that a tax-guru friend had explained to her that hitting the top 2 percent was not going to be enough.

“There’s a problem,” he told her. “Most of the money in the country is still, thankfully, in the hands of the people making between $100,000 and $300,000.”

Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee chairman, went even further on MSNBC this week, saying, “everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich … we’re not going to get out of this deficit problem unless we raise taxes across the board.”

Who knew? You would never know from listening to the smartest president in history. And I wonder why Dean never said anything like that prior to Nov. 6.

So, all you people making less than $250,000 who remember the president’s multiple promises that your taxes won’t be going up “by a single dime,” get ready to be demonized along with the mega-rich for not “paying your fair share” and not “playing by the same rules.”

Just don’t say you weren’t warned. Conservatives have been saying this for years.

Finally, while Obama’s buddy, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, never tires of talking about how his state is “leading the nation” in economic health, all that robust activity is apparently not generating the level of taxes his experts predicted.

The state has a $540 million budget hole, and there is now talk of raising taxes (again) and raiding the rainy day fund again.

Gee, why tap the rainy day fund if we’re not in a recession?


Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at

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