Erin Burnett, one of CNBC's famed "money honeys," exaggerated the relative strength of the economy Sunday in order to boost the success of President Obama's stimulus plan.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Burnett several times characterized this economic recovery as not only far stronger than any of the indicators suggest, but also "faster" than those in the recent past.
"Our recovery started more quickly than after any other recession in the past 25 years," the CNBCer told David Gregory and his panel.
Burnett later elaborated on this preposterous claim as fellow panelist Rich Lowry of the National Review shook his head on screen (video follows with transcript and commentary):
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: And big picture, the president maintains, in response to the jobs numbers, "Look, we're going in the right direction here. We are part of the solution, not part of the problem." But as I suggested to David Plouffe, there is a--an economic record there that is tough to run on.
ERIN BURNETT, CNBC: Yes, very tough to run on. He's right, though. I mean, I call it the "tortoise economy." The economy's growing. The numbers are coming out. We're getting better - in fact, after this recession we have - our recovery started more quickly than after any other recession in the past 25 years. So it's accurate to say we're growing and we're going in the right direction. Politically, though, how do you spin a 9.6 unemployment rate to have it be positive? That's incredibly difficult. And it's very hard politically to see how they're going to make that case.
MR. GREGORY: But, Erin Burnett, the big question on unemployment, if, if--and in 30 seconds, when is there a meaningful dent in the unemployment rate that can help these political fortunes?
MS. BURNETT: Well, I think it's interesting, because by the way, I don't think the stimulus has been a failure, and I think that you are correct that it is perceived that way. But I don't think it's actually true. Without that stimulus, we would be significantly worse off than we are right now. There, there's really no question about it. You can ask any economist on Wall Street or any CEO. I see you shaking your head, I know you disagree. But, but, but, but my reporting would show otherwise.
E. J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Keep going.
MS. BURNETT: I - look, I, I, I think the problem is you have the fastest job creation in this recovery than you have in any recession in 25 years, but it is still not enough. You aren't going to win this on jobs, and that is the problem. It's going to take a long time. I don't know how you get around that problem, but technically speaking, this recovery has not been tepid.
Really, Erin? And exactly how did you come to such a conclusion?
Let's begin our analysis of Burnett's claim by first recognizing that the organization responsible for determing when recessions begin and end - the National Bureau of Economic Research - has yet to announce when the last recession concluded.
In fact, as Fortune reported on August 6, NBER may be delaying its announcement to see if the economy double-dips:
The National Bureau of Economic Research is known to be slow at declaring the starts and stops of a recession, but it looks as if it might have been right to hold off on any bold declarations this time around, potentially proving many policymakers and Wall Street analysts wrong.
Many economists say the recession ended over a year ago -- last June or July -- even while NBER (the ones tasked to make the formal call) has hesitated from doing so. As early as April, the organization's committee of academic economists said that it would be "premature" to declare an end to the recession that started in December 2007. [...]
Who knows when the NBER will declare the end of this latest recession. Whatever date it falls on, last summer certainly didn't feel like the end of the recession even while many economists argue that it was. And in the coming year, it might feel even less like it.The NBER has never declared a double-dip recession, but believes it is basically one continuous recession with a period of growth occurring and then a slip back to a downturn. At the rate we're going, it looks like a double-dip is plausible.
As such, it is possible that months from now, the NBER data may indicate we are currently still in a recession making Burnett's argument Sunday totally absurd.
On the other hand, as the Gross Domestic Product did start growing in the 3rd quarter of 2009, let's operate from the premise that the recession ended in June of last year. As NBER believes the recession started in December 2007, that means its duration was 18 months.
According to NBER, the early '90s recession went from July 1990 to March 1991. Depending on how you calculate it, that's a duration of eight to nine months.
NBER views the early '00s recession as going from March 2001 to November 2001, also a duration of eight to nine months.
With this in mind, if the most recent recession ended in June 2009, it took at least twice the time to get out of it than the previous two recessions thereby completely refuting Burnett's claim.
As for job growth coming out of a recession, this "recovery" is by no means something to brag about.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the fourteen months since this recession theoretically ended, non-farm payrolls have decreased by 329,000.
Even if you look at the "private sector" numbers the administration and their media sycophants have been trying to focus the nation's attention on, this has shown a decline of 205,000 jobs since the recession "ended."
To be sure, both of these figures are better than what we saw during the early '00s recession. However, non-farm payrolls increased by 45,000 in the first fourteen months following the end of the early '90s recession while private sector employment declined by 220,000.
If Burnett wants to hang her hat on this 15,000 private sector jobs "improvement" as a sign that this recovery is faster and stronger than the one in the early '90s, it seems certain given all the data she'd be skating on thin ice.
Of course, she'd certainly look good doing it, a fact that even Chris Matthews noticed three years ago:
Yes, it appears something other than Barack Obama gives Matthews a tingle up his leg - at least that was the case in August 2007.
As for Burnett, given that she represents one of this country's foremost financial news networks, it would be nice if she did her homework before making such sweeping claims about the economy.