Today aboard Air Force One, a reporter asked presidential spokesman Tony Fratto if the Bush administration was at all worried about a recession, given that on Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said she “think[s] the economy is slipping toward recession.” Fratto brushed aside such concerns:
QUESTION: Senator Clinton said on Saturday that the U.S. economy was slipping towards a recession. Is that a view the White House shares; why or why not?
FRATTO: I don’t know of anyone predicting a recession.
Fratto clearly hasn’t been reading the news. Several of the nation’s leading economists continue to predict that the United States will slip into a recession:
Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein: We are now talking about [a recession happening] more likely than not. … I have been saying about 50 percent. This now pushes it up a bit above that.” [1/5/08]
Lawrence Summers: “[T]he odds now favour a US recession that slows growth significantly on a global basis. Without stronger policy responses than have been observed to date, moreover, there is the risk that the adverse impacts will be felt for the rest of this decade and beyond.” [11/25/07]
National Association for Business Economics survey: “The number of economists forecasting the U.S. will slip into recession almost doubled over the last two months.” [11/19/07]
Warren Buffett: “If I had to pick the chances that we are going into a recession, I would say they are fairly significant.” [10/29/07]
CBO Director Peter Orszag: “The risk of a recession is clearly elevated.” [9/18/07]
A reporter later followed-up and asked Fratto about Feldstein’s statements. Fratto dismisses Feldstein, saying the former chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers was guilty of “prognosticating.” “Well, even that isn’t a firm prediction,” said Fratto.
The entire concept of “recessions” and “predictions” may be out of reach for the spokesman to a president who only “got a B in Econ 101.”