Is the recession over?

Top Obama economic adviser Larry Summers says the downturn has ended; a colleague disagrees. Who's right?

The recession: is the worst finally over?
(Image credit: Corbis)

President Obama's top economic advisers are sending mixed signals on whether the recession was over. On Sunday talk shows, Larry Summers, chairman of the National Economic Council, told CNN that "everyone agrees that the recession is over," although questions remain about "how fast we’ll recover." Christina Romer, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said on NBC that the recession clearly isn't over, because "the people on Main Street" are still suffering. Which is it -- has the recovery begun, or is the economy still stuck in a recession? (Watch Larry Summers announce the recession is over)

Romer is right. The recession lives: "President Obama’s belief that America can spend its way out of the recession is being disproved at every turn," says Jed Babbin in Human Events. Outside the White House, people worry that "Obama's spending spree" is making matters worse. Yes, stocks are up, "but mortgage refinancing is still very hard to get," which is one of several factors "pointing to a false recovery which may presage a longer and deeper downturn."

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It's a trick question: "Technically speaking, Larry Summers is probably correct," says Andrew Leonard in Salon. "The National Bureau of Economic Research has yet to declare an 'official' end to the recession," but the economy has started growing again. Still, Christina Romer's answer showed more "political savvy," because, as mid-term elections approach, what matters is 10 percent unemployment.

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Obama's economic team is on the same page: The leading members of Obama's economic team agree, says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly, that creating jobs and spurring economic growth are bigger immediate priorities than bringing down the federal debt. "Republicans, obviously, have made clear they prefer to focus on the deficit they created, but I'm heartened to hear the administration argue otherwise."

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