How do you know when you’re in a recession?
What, exactly, is a recession? How do you know when you’re in one? To cut through the political posturing that surrounds this term, we need to understand the true definition of a recession.
Recession—Any downturn in national growth that cannot be explained without admitting the responsibility of both Republicans and Democrats.
If political candidates were to acknowledge the country is in a recession, they would immediately address this by dispatching more publicity photos. In those pictures they’d appear gravely concerned and be shown with their sleeves rolled up, probably wearing a hard hat and holding a puppy.
I mean, the word “recession” is sort of a retroactive accusation, one for which there are no polled public opinions. Naturally, this condition is iffy for politicians (and those whose direct employment depends on them) to admit. It’s kind of like addressing birth control with a pregnant woman—and then discovering that you might be the father.
In college, I learned that the definition of a recession is “a decline in Gross Domestic Product for two or more consecutive quarters.” If that’s so, then clearly we’re not in a recession because “gross domestic products” are on the rise. Case in point: putrid-smelling air fresheners and disposable toilet wands.
The Business Cycle Dating Committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession as (I’m not making this part up) “the time when business activity has reached its peak and starts to fall until the time when business activity bottoms out.” Obviously, it would have been too confusing to have said “the period of decline between business growth cycles.” I guess this is why these folks get paid the big bucks. But what else can be expected from a government organization that has enough spare time to form a “dating committee?”
Having once served as treasurer of my church Sunday school class, I have some finance and economic experience. What I don’t understand is the need for expensive studies to rate economic indicators like consumer confidence. All anyone has to do is check Best Buy’s plasma TV sales to get a read on that.
But for those who simply must know if we’re in a recession, here’s a list of possible signs. If three or more of these statements are true, then you can rest assured we’re in a recession:
· You put $20 worth of gasoline in your car and the gas gauge registers less than a quarter tank full.
· The gold in your wedding band is suddenly worth more than the stones.
· At the last networking meeting you attended, you met six or fewer Realtors.
· You’ve received two or more unsolicited credit card offers by mail—addressed to your dog.
· Your 401(k) statements have begun arriving with samples of Zoloft.
· Someone you know has traded in a Hummer for a Honda Civic.
· Your home is the only occupied house on your street.
· The local Family Dollar Store is expanding.
· You’ve cut out all nonessential travel other than trips to comb for aluminum cans.
· The government feels sorry enough for you to return part of the money they’ve already taken from you.
· With your economic stimulus check you paid your electric bill.
The good news in all of this is, like the five pounds I lost earlier this year, it’s likely a temporary condition.