Baseball legend Yogi Berra once famously remarked, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” But when is something over? Really over? Is it when the fat lady sings? Why should she decide? Who made her the arbiter of “over”? What if she declares it over prematurely, because she’s grown bored and is jonesing for a big bucket of KFC? What happens then?
Maybe it’s over when a panel of economists emerge from their Fortress of Solvitude to say it’s over:
The U.S. recession that started in December 2007 ended in June 2009, making it the longest slump since World War Two, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The NBER, a nonprofit group that determines when recessions begin and end, said the economy bottomed out in June 2009, followed by a slow expansion. The group said the 18-month recession was the longest since a pair of 16-month slumps in 1973-75 and 1981-82.
Yet the NBER also cautioned that its findings bear no relation to the current state of the economy or represent a forecast about the future. If another downturn occurs anytime soon, the NBER said, it would constitute a separate recession…
“In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity,” the NBER said. “Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.” [full story]
Well, gee, I’m overcome with ebullience. Break out the Champale. To heck with the Cheez Whiz, this occasion calls for Velveeta. Let the revelry begin!
If I appear sarcastically dismissive of this announcement, it’s because I am. Not because I dispute the panel’s economic findings, but because it all seems a tad out of touch with the economic realities of most Americans. It will take more than a modest uptick in the gross domestic product or other indicators to convince me that the Great Recession is over. A whole lot more. This country has barely begun to climb out of the massive hole that Wall Street and their political bedfellows drove us into. We’re no more out of that hole than the 33 Chileans are out of the mine they’ve been trapped in since August 5. (Of course, that didn’t stop some psychologist in Chile from recently declaring that “the worst is now over” for the miners.) A sliver of daylight should not be mistaken for a recovery. It’s not even close.
So put the Champale back on ice. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.