The New York Times has joined the rest of the mainstream media in changing the definition of “recession” — we just had two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, which would mean we’re in a recession. Kyla Scanlon thinks differently, and writes for the Times that there are many factors to consider, including vibes, and people are “silly and messy.” If the American public thinks we’re going into a recession, those expectations “could very well lead to one.”

Scanlon writes:

The vibes in the economy are … weird. That weirdness has real effects. A recent study found that broader vibes do indeed drive what people do, with media narratives about the economy accounting for 42 percent of the fall in consumer sentiment in the second half of 2021.

Indicators like G.D.P. are important, but much of the time, the root of economic problems lies with expectations. When we think about things like inflation, financial conditions and monetary policy, it’s best to frame them through people. And people are, of course, silly and messy. Far too many economists and experts forget that the economy is really a bunch of people “peopling” around and trying to make sense of this world.

When policy is more focused on indicators that might not fully reflect reality, and not on the silly and messy people whom the policy is meant to serve, we enter dangerous territory.

There is no recession yet. Right now we are in a “vibe-cession” of sorts — a period of declining expectations that people are feeling based on both real-world worries and past experiences. Things are off. And if they don’t improve, we will have to worry about more than bad vibes.

Once again, it’s not President Joe Biden failing; it’s us, the American people, failing Joe Biden.

We’re not in a recession, it’s just that the vibes in the economy are really weird.

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