White House: We Never ‘Cheerlead’ On The Economy, Admitting It Is In A ‘Recession’ Is ‘Irrelevant’

In yesterday’s White House Press conference, spokesperson Tony Fratto responded to a question about whether or not the economy is currently in recession by saying, “We don’t make determinations or predictions on…the bottom of the business cycle.”

Noting the obvious euphemism, one reporter observed, “I may be wrong, but I’ve never heard anyone ever say the word recession from the podium.” The reporter asked, “Is that word radioactive or why isn’t it said?” Fratto responded:

[We] think its relatively irrelevant to the primary focus that we have which is dealing with implementing policy. I mean, I don’t think the American people sit around and say, “Boy, why won’t they say it?” … I don’t think anyone who has stood at this podium could be accused of cheerleading the economy or looking through rose colored glasses. We try to be very, very transparent.

Watch it:

The White House has yet to admit what a majority of Americans and economists now agree on: The U.S. economy is in recession. Just yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce declared, “We are currently in…a recession.” Last month, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker said, “[T]he economy, I believe, is in recession,” and Steve Forbes said similarly that “we’re in a recession, a very serious recession.”

Despite Fratto’s claims to the contrary, the White House has been anything but “transparent” with regard to the condition of the economy. Indeed, while the economy edged closer and closer to crisis this year, the Bush White House put on their pom poms and engaged in economic happy talk:

— “I don’t know of anyone predicting a recession.” [Fratto, 1/7/08]

— “I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they’ll recognize tax cuts work.” [President Bush, 3/12/08]

— “First of all, we’re not in a recession” [President Bush, 4/22/08]

— “The data are pretty clear that we are not in a recession” [Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Edward Lazear, 5/7/08]

— “I think we have avoided a recession.” [White House Budget Director Jim Nussle, 7/31/08]

— “I don’t think anybody could tell you right now if we’re in a recession or not” [Dana Perino, 10/7/08]

As Dan Froomkin wrote in April — and the current economic crisis demonstrates — the Bush administration’s rhetoric on the economy amounted to nothing more than “tone-deaf cheerleading.”