This morning of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) about a statement he made in July when he argued that the U.S. economy “may not be in a recession.” Wallace played a recording of Chambliss from an ad released by Jim Martin’s campaign:
CHAMBLISS: We may not be in a recession. I don’t know what that term means.
Chambliss attempted to defend himself, saying that he was “quoting Alan Greenspan.” Wallace, however, noted that while Chambliss used the Greenspan quote in July 2008, Greenspan had said in April 2008 that “we’re headed into a recession.” Chambliss responded by attempting (and failing) to fall back on the “technical definition” of a recession:
Chris, if you’ll remember, [a recession] was supposed to be two consecutive months of negative GDP, and at that point in time we hadn’t seen that. But, you know, economists disagree on the technical definition of recession, and obviously that’s what i was talking about.
Still, however, Chambliss could not bring himself to admit that the economy is in recession.
In attempting to appear knowledgeable about the economy by citing the “technical definition” of a recession, Chambliss actually demonstrated his ignorance. Indeed, Chambliss said this morning that a recession is “supposed to be two consecutive months of negative GDP” growth. In fact, the often cited — though misleading — definition of a recession to which Chambliss was referring says nothing about “two consecutive months,” but rather “two consecutive quarters.”
Definitions aside, Chambliss’s apparent inability to recognize that the U.S. is in a recession demonstrates he is uninformed about the state of the economy. Indeed, the Federal Reserve’s latest economic outlook “warned that a recession is believed already to be underway could last until mid-2009 or later.” Further, as Forbes recently reported on the significant rise in unemployment claims in recent months, “[c]laims above 400,000 are generally considered a sign of recession, and claims have been above that level for 17 weeks.”
Perhaps most startling is that according to a recent survey by the National Association of Business Economists, “96% of the economists surveyed” believe a recession has begun. While economists may disagree about what constitutes a recession, they seem to agree that the U.S. is in one.