“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
— “Alice in Wonderland”
Sometimes it feels like we are living in an Alice in Wonderland world with words changing in meaning all the time.
A few terms come instantly to mind. What is the definition of “peaceful?” What is the definition of a “woman?” What is the definition of “a secure border?” What does “transitory” mean? Apparently not “temporary” because inflation has been with us for nearly 18 months now.
Government doesn’t “spend” money anymore. It “invests” it.
If you fail at a job, it doesn’t mean you were incompetent or that you aren’t up to snuff. You are just a victim of “able-ism.”
Oh, and what you saw on the streets of Chicago and Kenosha and Seattle in the summer of 2020 were not “riots.” They were “protests,” and “peaceful,” or rather “mostly peaceful.”
Now here’s the latest quiz question: what is the definition of a “recession?” It’s always been two straight quarters of negative growth — which has happened in Q1 and Q2 of this year. It has been that way for about half a century.
But now Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her minions are dutifully telling us it is something else. What that is, she’s not sure of. We are told by Yellen that this is a healthy economy and we are in the midst of a “great transition.”
But a transition to what? Radical income redistribution? Green energy? Is this like Chairman Mao’s five-year plan or the Great Leap Forward?
We will see.
But in the end none of these weasel words or circumlocution really matter at all.
What matters is that 80% of Americans don’t feel that the economy is on the right track. They aren’t feeling the love. And that is because whether the economy is contracting a little bit or growing a tiny bit, the paychecks of workers are falling and the after-inflation take-home pay is falling behind the cost of living for 12 straight months.
Over the past year, the Heritage Foundation reports that the average family has lost more than $3,000 of income relative to prices. If these trends continue the losses could exceed $5,000 for the average family.
Polls are showing that many low and middle income families are having to cut back on their purchases of necessities. Credit card debt is surging. Small business confidence is at its lowest level in at least a decade. The national debt has surged by $5 trillion over the last three years.
So maybe the Biden White House is right. Maybe this isn’t a recession. Maybe we are facing a mini-depression.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economist with Freedom Works. His latest book is “Govzilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”