NBC Wonders: Are We in a Recession? Who Cares! It’s Tough Out There!

September 30th, 2022 4:24 PM

Amid their non-Hurricane Ian coverage on Friday, NBC’s Today and the 3rd Hour of Today returned to a recent liberal media trend in defending the Biden administration by dismissing the reality that the country’s in a recession. This time, they wondered if it “matter[s] when everything you buy everyday is more expensive” and “it doesn’t feel good out there.”

Of course, nowhere in either news show did the Biden administration come up or be assigned blame.



Co-host Savannah Guthrie said in the first of three teases there were “[t]roubling new signs for the economy stoking renewed fears of a recession” and then in a third correspondent Tom Costello himself asked: “Are we or are we not in a recession? Does it matter when everything you buy everyday is more expensive?”

Co-host Craig Melvin gave his two cents in the lead-in to Costello’s report:

If it seems like a confusing time now with high inflation but low unemployment, if it seems like it’s confusing, you are not alone. Even economists are divided over what it means and if things will get better or worse in the near term.

“Whatever it is, it doesn't feel good out there...Tom, even more conflicting information yesterday on this issue of whether or not we are in a recession. But people are feeling the pinch,” Guthrie replied.

Ignoring the trillions in government spending injected into the economy since the start of the pandemic, Costello insisted the economy “is a head-scratcher” as GDP numbers reveal “the economy contracted but applications for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since the spring” and that “big retailers are signaling that consumers are pulling back on spending” even though “gas prices may come down even further.”

Costello continued to pile on the bad news about serious contractions for “Americans' retirement and college savings accounts,” the stock market seeing 20 percent drops, and “skyrocket[ing] mortgage rates,” but such signs only fit a “typical definition of a recession.”

The defense then kicked into gear:

COSTELLO: [T]here is nothing typical about this economy. Inflation is running at 40-year highs despite a drop in gas prices, yet unemployment remains at a 50-year low. Companies are reluctant to lay off employees amid a worker shortage. 

MOODY’s MARK ZANDI: We are not in recession, but, you know, obviously, recession risks down the road here are quite high.

After some tips about how families should work to pay down debts and continue with contributions to their investment portfolios, Costello closed with more optimism about gas prices even though “a big jump in your natural gas heating bills is likely this winter, largely due at least in part to Russia's war in Ukraine and tight supply here in the U.S.”

Two hours later, fill-in 3rd Hour of Today co-host Jacob Soboroff teed up Costello with more about “some mixed messages on the economy” even though “a lot of signs point to a recession.”

Costello dutifully replied (click “expand”):

Yeah and I got to tell you. We got more economic data just out this morning showing that inflation is still running pretty hot, right? Six percent by one account, so the Fed is going to take that into account when it decides if they are raising rates even further. This is a head-scratcher of an economy because — you're right. You still have inflation running at about 40-year highs. We’ve got unemployment at 50-year lows. We've got full employment. Employers are not laying people off because they are afraid that they won't be able to find employees on the back side because we are in a full employment situation. It’s — it's a really strange economy. Now, the technical definition of a recession is that the economy shrinks two quarters in a row. We know that that’s happened already this year. But economists say this doesn't feel like a recession when you’ve got unemployment so low and everybody has a job. Prices are high. 

So, the bottom line, though, is how should you and I play this, right? What is the strategy going forward if, in fact, the economy is going to worsen, if we go into a recession? So, a couple of ideas from the economists we talked to and the experts. Number one, they say this is a time to conserve cash if you can. Pay down debts now...Keep contributing to your investment accounts, they say, though. Even though the stock market is down, 23 percent year to date on the S&P, 31 percent on the NASDAQ, keep contributing to your investment accounts because, essentially, you’re buying at a lower level for when, in fact, the market goes higher...[A]s it relates to where you put your money when the stock market is sinking? A couple of ideas. Number one, there are online banks that are offering savings accounts with an interest rate of about three percent. That's pretty good when the stock market is sinking right now. In addition...[g]overnment treasury bonds are now offering 9.6 percent. That's a heck of a deal. It's guaranteed if you put $10,000 into one of those I-bonds. So buy one. You can only do $10,000 at a time, but maybe you can get one and your spouse and your kids.

Friday’s economic denialism was brought to you by advertisers such as Citi and Target. Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant transcripts from September 30, click here and here.