Wikipedia editors have been accused of taking a cue from the White House and redefining “recession” after the Biden administration denied that two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth so far this year mean the economy is in a recession.
Most economists agree that the economy is technically in a recession when a country’s real gross domestic product (GDP)—the most-watched indicator of economic activity—contracts for two or more consecutive quarters. The GDP fell by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and on Thurday July 28, the Commerce Department announced that the GDP fell by a 0.9 percent annual rate in Q2.
However, the White House has been reluctant to use the “R” word both before and after the latest numbers came out, preferring the word “transition” and pointing to underlying strength in the economy.
Biden said on Monday that “we’re not going to be in a recession, in my view”, adding “my hope is we go from this rapid growth to steady growth.”
Recession denial was reflected in an editing war on the recession page of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia created and edited by volunteers. A user named Soibangla removed references to the standard definition of a recession and adding a line that said, “There is no global consensus on the definition of a recession,” Newsweek reported.
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After the definition was changed several times by competing users, the page was protected, restricting who can edit it.
Republicans say the economic contraction meets the commonly used definition of recession. Biden fans have been blamed for changing the definition.
In a statement released after the Commerce Department announcement, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. remains “on the right path” and “will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”
Biden is defending his economic record as the 2022 midterm elections approach, saying, “Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth, and regaining all the private sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis, it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation. But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on NBC, “A recession is a broad-based contraction that affects many sectors of the economy. We just don’t have that.”
Yellen cited the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), whose website defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”
“I would be amazed if (NBER) would declare this period to be a recession, even if it happens to have two quarters of negative growth,” Yellen said. “We have a very strong labor market. When you are creating almost 400,000 jobs a month, that is not a recession.”
Republicans are using inflation and GDP figures to argue that the Biden administration is trying to redefine “recession” and play down signs of an economic downturn. “You would rather redefine a recession than restore a healthy economy,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.
Photo: Marco Verch Professional Photographer, https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/