White House economist insists data is ‘inconsistent’ with recession despite second quarter of negative GDP

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White House economist Jared Bernstein stuck by the administration’s claim that the country is not in a recession Thursday after the second quarter GDP report revealed the U.S. economy shrank once again in the spring.

The Commerce Department announced Thursday morning that U.S. GDP shrank 0.9% in the spring quarter, the second consecutive quarter, thus meeting the criteria for a technical recession.

Bernstein, however, argued the issue is more nuanced and maintained on “America’s Newsroom” that current economic data on job growth, consumer spending and industrial production prove otherwise. 

“It’s simply inconsistent with a recessionary call,” he told hosts Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino.

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The Biden administration repeatedly brushed off concerns of a recession in previous months, going so far as to shift the definition of the term. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and White House economist Brian Deese claimed in separate interviews that a recession is a broad-based contraction in the economy involving a wide spectrum of data points. 

Bernstein reiterated that Americans’ income is growing, but he pointed to inflation as the primary problem needing to be addressed.

“What matters most to American households are how are they doing in this economy,” he said. “When it comes to inflation, they are facing unacceptably high pressures on their budgets.”

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And while Bernstein conceded that Americans have seen a bit of relief at gas pumps, citing a $0.74 drop per gallon since mid-June, he said it’s not enough.

“We’ve got to do more,” he said. 

A gas pump displays the price of fuel at a gas station in McLean, Virginia, June 10, 2022. 

A gas pump displays the price of fuel at a gas station in McLean, Virginia, June 10, 2022.  ((Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images))

Bernstein touted the deal reached on the Inflation Reduction Act as a “critical breakthrough” that will lower costs of prescription drugs, health insurance and investments in electric vehicles. 

“The Inflation Reduction Act and the reduction in prescription drug costs – a huge help to our low-income seniors,” Bernstein said, explaining the administration’s plan to ease the burden of inflation. 

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“One of the most important benefits of our uniquely and historically tight job market is it provides some of the best opportunities for lower paid workers,” he said. 

“But we have to do more to help them with these inflationary pressures.”