“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx
Recession? What recession? George W. Bush asks that question rhetorically almost weekly now.
He characterizes what we are experiencing as a “slowdown.”
Kind of like characterizing as a slowdown what Wile E. Coyote experiences when he hits the fake tunnel entrance that Road Runner has painted on a big rock wall.
(The goal with this week’s column, in case you hadn’t figured it out by now, was to name as many comic characters as possible. Let’s see, four so far: Groucho, Wile, Road, George.)
Whether we’re in a recession is political rhetoric, of course.
“The average person doesn’t really care what we call it,” Bush said Tuesday.
Nevertheless, the prez is here to help, pulling strings over at Treasury to get the economic stimulus checks out a week early for people who don’t “really care what we call it.”
The checks are arriving just in time to cover our gasoline credit-card bills, so we can stimulate the economy for George’s wealthy oil friends.
Forget rhetoric: For George and his oily friends, there’s no recession. But there’s a plenitude of people outside the circle who could feel otherwise:
• The quarter-million or so who have lost jobs in the first four months of the year.
• Anybody forced out of his or her house because of a foreclosure since January.
• Consumers expressing less confidence in the economy than they have in a quarter-century, according to a Reuters/ University of Michigan index last week.
• Approximately 299,999,950 Americans. That’s minus the 50 hedge-fund managers who took home a combined $29 billion in compensation last year.
• Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Board chairman who gave – say, is this figure a coincidence? – a $29 billion taxpayer guarantee to JPMorgan Chase for the Bear Stearns bailout.
• Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona legislators scrambling over big budget deficits, including $1.2 billion in the current state budget that they passed and signed, all while knowing that we were headed toward “not a recession.”
• Tucson businesses facing up to a 63 percent increase in commercial trash collection fees. Could a boost in the residential trash collection fee, now $14 per month, be far behind? Watch your wallets.
• City of Tucson finance director James Cameron, who last fall predicted holiday shopping would push city sales-tax revenues up by 4 percent from the previous year, making up for a slowdown. Actual holiday sales-tax revenues fell short of what they were a year earlier.
These signs, one and all, make it obvious, rhetoric or not.
But, George, don’t give in to the obvious. Remember, it ain’t a recession until economists say it is. Or was. They always say so after the fact; that often increases their chances at accuracy.
So if this unpleasantness isn’t from a recession, rhetorically speaking, what is it, George?
How about a full-speed slam into a big rock wall?
Reach Michael A. Chihak at 573-4646 or firstname.lastname@example.org