NPR, economic expansion, and the Business Cycle Dating Committee

Yesterday, as I drove to the nursery to pick up plants for our School Garden, I was listening to a mid-day news story on NPR, which discussed the Business Cycle Dating Committee, a little known group that charts, records, and forecasts economic expansions and recessions. One of the ladies speaking in the story explained that we are currently in an 87-month long economic expansion – quite a long one, she said, since expansions last 58 months on average – after the worst economic recession since World War II.

As I was listening, I couldn’t help but put that economic news in terms of the presidency, since we’re inundated right now with ideas about who should be the next person to run the country. The way I see it, that 87-month economic expansion has to be viewed in terms of Barack Obama, who has been our president for the last 93 months, and in terms of his predecessor, George W. Bush, about whom few Republicans have spoken during the campaign. It was Bush who presided over the downturn, when the economy crashed during the final months of his administration, and it has been Obama who has brought us out of it. (I’d also like to point out that the Affordable Care Act, whose opponents claim it hurts the economy, was signed into law in March 2010— 79 months ago.)

Unfortunately, the Business Cycle Dating Committee is predicting that a recession is probably in our near future, since this expansion/recovery has lasted so long, about two-and-a-half years longer than average. Of course, the committee predicts that this next one won’t be as severe as the Great Recession, but a recession is never good for ordinary folks. The main point of yesterday’s NPR story was: our next president will be in office for the next 48 months – 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 – and will likely face that oncoming recession. The only way that won’t happen is if this current expansion lasts for a whopping 150 months or more.

So, who we choose on November 8 will not only face down Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and ISIS, but also another economic downturn here at home. As a public school teacher, a married father of two, and a man whose financial well-being has already been assaulted once, I hope we make the right choice.

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