by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There are few good ways for a president or his staff to talk about the economy when the nation is on the precipice of a recession. If a president acknowledges hard reality and concedes that a recession may be imminent, he may inadvertently spur Americans to alter their economic behavior and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. But when the outlook is grim, the president can look naïve, overly optimistic, and out of touch by downplaying the likelihood of a recession.
That’s not a good look in normal circumstances, but it’s terrible for a president who is approaching a likely midterm shellacking, who insisted that inflation would be transitory, that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan,” and that he would have to be a “mind reader” to see the infant-formula shortage coming, and so on. Just in time for November, Biden may be telling Americans not to fear a particular dire economic outcome, right before it becomes true.
Yesterday in Delaware, Biden was left to insist that a recession wasn’t inevitable. …
… White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had to offer the finely worded argument that the U.S. was not officially in a recession yet: “Right now, we don’t see a recession right now. We’re not in a recession right now. Right now we’re in a transition where we are going to go into a place of stable and steady growth.”
But the country isn’t going to have to wait too long to hear whether it is in recession. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. In the first quarter of 2022, the U.S. experienced a shrinkage of about 1.5 percent. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the numbers for the second quarter on July 28.