Statistical Clowning

Congratulations... the recession is over! In fact, it ended almost two years ago, according to an official committee composed of seven academic economists and known as the Bureau of Statistical Silliness.

Only kidding! It's actually called the National Bureau of Economic Research, and this bunch is not kidding with its recent assertion that the recession ended in November of 2001. What? You say you're out of work and can't even get an interview, much less a new job? You say your 401(k) is now only a (k) and that personal bankruptcies are rampant? You say that nearly two million jobs have been lost since November '01, that corporations are still dumping 200,000 workers a month, and that longterm unemployment is the highest in decades? You say that corporations are now sending our high-tech jobs out of the country? You say these seven economists should have to wear polka-dotted clown suits and sport Pinnochio noses when they talk such nonsense?

Now, now -- it's not the fault of these Seven Sillies. In dating business cycles, they're legally restricted to a technical, academically-narrow definition of recession that bears no relationship to what you might call "reality." After all, in the Ivory Tower or on the heights of Wall Street, terms like "jobless recovery" can be tossed around cavalierly, for it's not they or people they know who are jobless, so such things are merely statistical curiosities rather than economic nightmares.

Indeed, a top economist at the Bank of America said that the Bureau's official declaration of the recession's end is useful because it "should help confidence on the part of businesses, investors, and consumers." Yoo-hoo, economists! Down here at the ground level, economic confidence usually involves having reliable income, which (excuse my economic jargon) means, "A steady job at good pay."

I think that only laid-off economists should be allowed to serve on this National Bureau of Economic Research.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Thieves In High Places: They've
Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back," on sale now from Viking
Press. For more information, visit


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