CNN anchor Jake Tapper grilled White House Adviser Gene Sperling during a Thursday afternoon interview, suggesting that it could ultimately backfire if President Joe Biden insisted on continuing his efforts to redefine the term “recession” to avoid admitting the United States is in one.
Sperling joined Tapper on his afternoon show “The Lead” to discuss the latest economic numbers — particularly the second consecutive quarter marred by negative growth — which cemented American’s fears that a recession was not just looming, it had already arrived.
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Tapper noted that the United States GDP declined by 1.6% in the first quarter and again by 0.9% in the second quarter — which traditionally would be described as a recession. But the Biden Administration has repeatedly denied that such a recession was happening — or even that it might happen in the near future — and even announced on Thursday that the second quarter of negative growth was actually a sign that the economy was “transitioning” to a more stable state.
Tapper appeared unconvinced, and asked Sperling whether doubling down on denying the existence of a recession that Americans were feeling every day was the wisest course of action.
“Traditionally, a recession is understood to be two successive quarters of negative economic growth, and that is what we’re in. I understand that you will tell me that’s not the official definition, but doesn’t this semantic debate risk making the White House seem as if you’re in denial and out of touch with Americans who are really struggling out there?” he asked.
“Not at all, Jake. Let’s acknowledge that every single family is the world’s leading expert on how they themselves are doing,” Sperling replied, going on to state that the White House was certainly aware that the American people were being “squeezed” by record-shattering inflation and gas prices.
He then pivoted to tout “record” job growth — which many have noted consists primarily of people who were forced out of their jobs by COVID-related lockdowns and closures returning to the workforce.
“But I think it’s also responsible to give people a balanced view of the state of the economy. And I’ll offer you one fact, which is in the history of our country, only last year, only in 2021, has there ever been greater job growth in the first six months of a year than there were this year,” Sperling added.
“But it’s been two quarters in a row of negative GDP growth,” Tapper objected. “That is an ugly fact. And traditionally, that has been the colloquial way that a recession has been defined.”
Sperling conceded that the current state of the economy did meet the “colloquial” definition of a recession, but continued to insist that it still did not meet the “technical” definition.