A prominent economist has lashed out at Facebook for placing a fact-checking label on a post asserting that the US has entered a recession despite President Biden’s refusal to publicly admit it.
“We live in an Orwellian hell-scape,” tweeted Dr. Phillip Magness, the research and education director at the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank, on Thursday. “Facebook is now ‘fact checking’ anyone who questions the White House’s word-games about the definition of a recession.”
Magness shared on his Twitter page a screenshot from his Facebook account, showing that the social media site had “independent fact-checkers” review his post from July 24, and that they found it was “partly false,” resulting in a notice being added to it.
Facebook warned that “people who repeatedly share false information might have their posts moved lower in News Feed to other people are less likely to see them.”
The correction comes after last week Biden denied that the US was in a recession, despite new data showing GDP had contracted for a second consecutive quarter, meeting the long-accepted definition of a recession.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the president sought to downplay the troubling report, and shift focus to near-record-low unemployment numbers and his administration’s progress on steps to tame soaring inflation.
“That doesn’t sound like recession to me,” he said, prompting GOP leaders to accuse the president of “gaslighting” the nation, with the Republican National Committee declaring the GDP report indicative of “Biden’s Recession.”
Other top administration officials followed Biden’s lead in dismissing the report showing the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.9%, following the first quarter’s 1.6% decline.
“We should avoid a semantic battle,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters last week, adding that Americans’ “biggest concern is with inflation” and that they generally feel good about their ability to find a job and stay employed.
The determination of whether the US is technically in a recession is usually made by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which is a private, nonprofit research organization based in Cambridge, Mass.
A week before the release of the negative GDP report, the White House fired off a preemptive blog post denying that two consecutive quarters of falling GPD was the official definition of a recession.
The author of the post maintained that “holistic data” such as “the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes” figured into the real definition of recession.
“Based on these data, it is unlikely that the decline in GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession,” the post stated.
Magness, who has been critical of Biden’s handling of the economy in the past, wrote in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal on July 27, in which he accused the White House of “playing word games,” instead of tackling the underlying economic problems.
“The White House’s attempt to wordsmith its way around a recession shows the dangers of politicizing economic terms,” he wrote. “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.”
Magness again took aim at the administration on Twitter on Saturday, accusing the White House and the news media of hypocrisy.
“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,” he mockingly wrote.
Nearly 8 in 10 Americans described the US economy as poor and roughly 7 in 10 disapproved of Biden’s economic leadership, according to a June survey by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
With Post wires
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