The no-doubt-about-it recession

The economic contraction that began in December 2007 finally registers two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth

Published January 30, 2009 3:02PM (EST)

It has been noted numerous times, here and elsewhere, that despite popular misconception, a "recession" is not officially defined as two successive fiscal quarters of negative GDP growth. The National Bureau of Economic Research relies on an array of measures to make its call as to when recessions start and stop, and by its reckoning the current recession started way back in December 2007.

But never mind all that -- the Commerce Department announced on Friday that GDP shrank at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Put that together with the .5 percent decline in the third quarter and, ladies and gentlemen, we have a recession, no matter how you care to define it.

I know, I know, that's not exactly breaking news to anyone, but it does shine a nice light on the behavior of House Republicans, who couldn't muster up one single vote in support of the White House-backed stimulus plan, even as the nation faces what is indisputably its grimmest economic outlook since 1982. We'll see next week if Senate Republicans are paying better attention.

UPDATE: President Obama is certainly keeping one eye on the news: While announcing the creation of the "Middle Class Working Families Taskforce," to be headed by Vice President Biden, he declared "the worst contraction in close to three decades" a "continuing disaster for America's working families."



By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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