The Arbiters of “Over”

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:

U.S. recession ended June 2009, NBER finds

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.

3 thoughts on “The Arbiters of “Over”

  1. Being in health care I have been insulated from the worst of the unemployment, but that work is not something you can just walk into and definately not for everyone.
    Recession hits harder on some than others. Some Americans are in a permament 1930.
    I would love to see a new WPA, because getting people back to work is crucial for now and for the future.

  2. We need to think why unemployment is NOT dropping.

    I think in part it is because “we” (that is, the investor and executive class with government collusion) have off-shored so much of our industry, not just manufacturing, but even data processing, customer service etc.

    Another reason: real wages for most of us have stagnated or fallen over a period of decades. We’ve financed increased consumption anyway up to 2008 by increasing debt, work hours, the housing bubble. That unsustainable ponzi-type scheme is over.

    I think solutions involve: sliding-scale tariffs against importing products from countries with low wages, no environmental or worker protection standards that drop to zero as their conditions improve; reduce the scale of immigration which currently drives down wages, hence purchasing power and demand; big increases in minimum wage to boost purchasing power and demand; tax policies that reward local investment that produce new jobs; buy-local campaigns to keep the jobs at home. If consumers have purchasing power, the business world will want to invest to sell to them, the opposite of the trickle-down economics we have long been following.

  3. “Recession” here is a technical term. It begins when GDP experiences 3 consecutive quarters of negative growth.

    Contrariwise, as Dee (or was it Dum?) said, a recession ends when GDP grows for 3 consecutive quarters.

    However, the effects or status of the general economy tend to lag. And, unfortunately, one of the biggest lagging effects in the last couple of decades is the recovery of the job market.

    This is another product of corporations putting immediate profits ahead of the long-term of the overall economy, and even ahead of the long-term growth of said corporations.

    The current pervasive management philoshophy is called “IBG” planning. Under this, the current CEO does whatever he (and it’s almost always a ‘he’) can to push up the price of the stock. He doesn’t much care what happens in a few years, because his attitude is “I’ll Be Gone.”

    The result of this short-sightedness is that, when jobs are shipped overseas, demand doesn’t increase when the recession ends. So we get ‘jobless recoveries.’ The worst one on record was the so-called ‘expansion’ that took place under GW Bush. Not only did jobs lag, but the median income never reached its pre-recession level.

    That is the first time that has ever happened.

    And these are the policies that Republicans, like John McCain, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell want to reinstate.

    However–if you are the CEO of a large corporation, having a 10% unemployment level is a GOOD thing. Keeps wages down, which pushes bonuses up.

    So, the rich get richer, thanks to the GOP.

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