Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

EDITORIAL > > A nation in recession

Here’s a shocking development. The National Bureau of Economic Research, the collection of economists who declare the lineaments of economic recessions in the United States, said Monday that the country is officially in a recession and pinpointed December 2007 as its beginning.
Wall Street swooned at the news and by the end of the day stocks had lost 8 percent of their value. The Dow fell 680 points, the third biggest one-day drop in history.
The rest of the country took the news in stride. Who needed these eggheads to formally declare a recession? Was anything ever more obvious?
The economy stopped creating jobs in July 2007 and began shedding them at a fast pace in January — a total of nearly 1.2 million the first 10 months of the year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and perhaps 2 million by the time President Bush leaves office.
For most of the country, it has felt like a recession for longer than that, though not so much in Arkansas until recently. Forever in the economic shade, Arkansas is last to bloom and last to fade.
The egghead economists also warned that the worst lies ahead or, if it gets no worse, we at least will endure a long siege of the current malaise.
Why did the bureau wait a year to tell us? These pronouncements always occur well after the fact because they are based on an analysis of aggregate business data over an extended period. Still, a year? Cynics wonder if they waited until after the election so that it would not affect the voting.
It would, of course, have made absolutely no difference. George W. Bush now is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to have two recessions on his watch (the first March-November 2001), but who cares to count?
It serves as one effective political antidote. Conservative commentators, led by Rush Limbaugh and Fox TV’s Sean Hannity, started calling it “the Obama recession” the day after the election. “The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen,” Limbaugh declared on Nov. 6. Investors everywhere are frightened at the prospect of an Obama presidency, he explained.
There is blame to go around for our desperation, but Sen. Barack Obama bears none of it, yet. Putting the nation, and the world, back on track is a mighty task and he will be judged quickly and maybe unfairly on how well he does it.
The world awaits his wisdom. It is a terrible burden. He asked for it.