Economic historian: ‘We live in an Orwellian hell-scape.’ Facebook is ‘fact checking’ anyone who questions WH word-games defining recession

An economic historian is calling out Facebook fact-checkers for seemingly carrying water for the Biden administration.

Phillip Magness, the director of research and education at the American Institute for Economic Research, took to Twitter to claim, “We live in an Orwellian hell-scape. Facebook is now ‘fact checking’ anyone who questions the White House’s word-games about the definition of a recession.”

The public policy PhD presumably bristled when his Facebook commentary post on the topic, which apparently is no longer visible, was reportedly labeled as misleading.

Most corporate media outlets have compliantly  gone along with analysis from the fact-checking industrial complex that almost always favors Democrats, as well as spin from the Biden administration itself.

The increasingly left-leaning Wikipedia has even temporarily locked its recession page after what the New York Post described as “a frantic editing war.”

The traditional definition of recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

In broad strokes, famed “1984” author George Orwell warned of a dystopian future of authoritarian propaganda and doublethink through manipulation of language.

Magness also pitched in to help out Wikipedia:

“Recession. n. 1. 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth when the media dislikes the president. 2. A vague, holistic, ill-defined condition that you aren’t allowed to talk about until the NBER makes a determination a year from now, provided the media likes the president. There you go, @Wikipedia. An accurate fix for your article on recessions that satisfies both definitions,” the scholar wrote on Twitter.

NBER is the National Bureau of Economic Research.

At least in part, Facebook is apparently relying on PolitiFact pronouncements in this scenario.

In an article published on Friday, Magness told Reason, “In this case, PolitiFact’s ‘ruling’ is compounded by the fact that they have previously invoked the very same definition of a recession — two consecutive quarters of GDP decline — in previous rulings to either provide cover to exaggerated Democratic claims about an impending recession or tear down Republican claims to the same effect…The fact-checking industry has become a partisan arbiter of political disputes, using claims of expertise that its writers do not actually possess to censor and shut down challenges to the political left.”

Parenthetically, according to Magness, Joe Biden himself had contended in 2020 that the country had lapsed into a recession under former President Donald Trump.

In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Magness similarly contended that the White House, which initially argued that inflation was transitory, was engaging in politically motivated semantics by relying on NBER data, when instead the Biden team should be directly addressing the country’s economic woes.

Magness seemed to be suggesting, as he did in the subsequent tweet, that the NBER evaluation does not operate on a real-time basis:

In place of the standard economic definition of a recession, administration officials point to the business-cycle dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research as the “official recession scorekeeper.” It’s a highly convenient move for them. While the nonpartisan NBER employs a robust set of indicators to pinpoint recessions, it does so retrospectively…Sometimes recessions end by the time NBER classifies them, and this built-in delay limits the utility of NBER scorekeeping for real-time policy decisions.

The White House’s attempt to wordsmith its way around a recession shows the dangers of politicizing economic terms. Mr. Biden’s economic advisers are trying to buy time by exploiting NBER’s otherwise defensible methodology. They hope doing so will insulate the administration from the electoral backlash in the event of a downturn.

There is no federal statute that appoints the NBER as the official arbiter of recessions. Quite the contrary, the federal government has historically followed the conventional textbook definition…

As alluded to above, earlier this month, in a fact sheet that promoted the NBER standard as its purported scorekeeper, the Biden administration claimed, “While some maintain that two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP constitute a recession, that is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle.”

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