Whatever You Do, Don’t Say Recession

Adam De Salle
9 min readAug 13, 2022
Credit: BARRY MAGUIRE/NEWSART

On his podcast this month, Joe Rogan, accompanied by his guest Chris Williamson (neither of whom, it goes without saying, are qualified economists or experts of anything other than spewing nonsense — Williamson is a self-professed “podcaster, Youtuber, and club promoter”), claimed that “The Biden Administration Redefined Recession.” A change on the Wikipedia entry for recession sparked Williamson to claim that the US is in a recession, but that the Biden administration is censoring the use of the word, and has even, 1984-style, changed its definition — Williamson states: “The reason that you attach a sequence of letters to something is to represent what that thing is. You don’t change reality by changing what those words actually mean. But if you can’t control the economy you might as well control the language.” Or as Rogan incongruously puts it, “Well that’s gaslighting.”

By the classical definition (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth), America would be in a recession — Rogan and Williamson argue that this Wikipedia change has occurred at the behest of Biden so that the term recession can’t be used against them in the upcoming midterms, and though its true that recession is a weaponized term during election time, (a) they did not change the definition of recession and (b) the reason we aren’t hearing the Biden administration declare the US economy to be in a recession is for a different and more important reason. Recessions in the US are officially declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), who use a combination of different variables to determine whether a recession has occurred (e.g. GDP contraction, but also unemployment, inflation, etc.) Before Biden and even the 2008 financial crisis, in 2003 the NBER clarified that their “procedure differed from the two quarter rule in a number of ways”. You mightn't like it, and it certainly has its problems, but it has been the same under Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden — it is not some Orwellian manipulation of language and reality performed by sleepy Joe.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell (Credit: REUTERS/ Elizabeth Frantz)

But let’s say hypothetically the US, or any other country, is actually in a recession — the leaders still wouldn’t say so until its glaringly…

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Adam De Salle

I am a young writer interested in providing the intellectual tools to those in the political trenches so that they may fight their battles well-informed.