The Washington Post reports that the White House has decided not to publish economic forecasts due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. That’s the ostensible scoop, but the real story is that Trump is covering up the recession in order to increase his reelection prospects. The White House is “opting against publishing forecasts that would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn,” say reporters Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey. The belief that voters will be uninformed unless a self-evident recession is “codified” assumes an extremely dim view of the American public. Presumably the tens of millions who have filed for unemployment do not need a precise estimate of GDP contraction to know that the economy is not doing well.
Such a projection would not “codify” a recession, but would estimate its magnitude amidst colossal uncertainty, which is why a host of government agencies and businesses have suspended guidance, including the Federal Reserve, Hilton, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Uber, Lyft, IBM, and Twitter, among many others.
In fact, 86 companies in the S&P 500 Index have withdrawn guidance this year. Perhaps the White House, the Fed, and the corporate sector are all obfuscating the state of the economy. More likely, they don’t want to mislead the public (a concern not shared by WaPo).
Stein and Dawsey continue: “President Barack Obama continued to release these numbers during the Great Recession, although they were unflattering.” Those projections underestimated GDP contraction by nearly 50 percent — an inaccuracy the administration presumably hopes to avoid by suspending projections.