October 31, 2020

Right Minded Recessed

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research released splendid news regarding the state of our economy.

The recession is over, and has been for 15 months.

There. Don’t you feel better now?

Of course not. Unless you’re the CEO of a bailed-out corporation, chances are the last year hasn’t been so fruitful for you economically. I find the statement of the economic “recovery” beginning in July 2009 to be puzzling, considering the fact that the unemployment rate has actually risen from 9.5 percent to 9.6 in that time. We may not be losing jobs by the hundreds of thousands each month, but instead of making a U-turn, we’ve more or less driven in the wrong direction until we hit a wall. Moreover, stagnation really isn’t much of an improvement over a recession, anyway. If you don’t have a job, you’re hardly enthused until those jobs become more readily available. Because of that, the public has met the announcement of the recession’s end with a chuckle and a shrug. The announcement of the recession ending may be good news, but hardly comes across as inspiring, because there is little reason to expect things to improve anytime soon. The housing market is still shot, and job growth moves at a snail’s pace. That is, when it moves at all. I want to believe the announcement from the NBER is the beginning of the end for our major economic woes. I want to believe there might be some action behind all that “fiscal responsibility” rhetoric that has been repeated ad nauseum on Capitol Hill and on “Main Street.”

But I just don’t see it. Not with a $2 trillion federal deficit racked up in the past year. Not with college student loan debt surpassing credit card debt. Not with more companies shipping more jobs overseas than ever before. Not with the threat of potential tax increases in the coming months to pay for a plethora of social reforms spread out over the next decade. Not with investment banks not being held accountable for poor actions. Not with employers enabling illegal immigrants to claim jobs in the states in order to cut wages.

The problems with America’s economy are much vaster than the average politician often lets on, and it doesn’t take an economist to see that.

Oh, I’m convinced the economy will rebound at some point. Unemployment won’t stay at 9.5 percent forever. But it’s hard to envision things greatly improving anytime soon. Austan Goolsbee, the chief economic advisor to President Barack Obama, recently made the same terribly accurate — if not politically gainful, conclusion.

But not to worry, everything’s OK now. The recession is over.

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