Wikipedia has suspended the edit feature on its ‘Recession’ page after users flocked to amend it to concur with President Biden’s claim that the US isn’t suffering a downturn.
The page was altered at least 47 times over a roughly 24-hour period, with an administrator locking unregistered users out until August in an effort to curb what the encyclopedia website characterizes as ‘vandalism,’ and ‘malicious’ edits.
The edit-freeze comes as numerous members of the Biden administration have tried to argue the country is not in a recession by casting doubt on the word’s definition, which commonly agreed upon to be two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.
One member made repeated edits to the Wikipedia page to insist there was ‘no global consensus’ on the definition of recession, in what appears to be a bizarre attempt to push White House messaging.
The Commerce Department confirmed in a report on Thursday that the US met that exact definition – announcing gross domestic product shrank 0.9 percent in the second quarter, following a decline of 1.6 percent decline in the first quarter.
The edit history of Wikipedia’s Recession page. The page was locked after it was edited 47 times in 24 hours this week
The edit-freeze comes as numerous members of the Biden administration have tried to argue the country is not in a recession by casting doubt on the word’s definition
The Wikipedia page’s history showed a flurry of edits, with an editor going by the name of Soibangla combing through the page and rooting out any references to the commonly held definition of a recession.
Soibangla then replaced those definitions with lines that more closely fit the Biden administration’s take on things, with one line reading ‘There is no global consensus on the definition of a recession.’
Some editors then tried to rebuke Soibangla’s changes, only to then have another round of recession doubting editors change the article back to fit their ambiguous definitions.
A Wikipedia administrator froze the edit feature due to a ‘Persistent addition of unsourced or poorly sourced content,’ the website reads, while at the top of the page a banner warns readers that the article may have been ‘affected by a current event’ and not to take its content at face value for the time being.
US gross domestic product shrank 0.9 percent in the second quarter, following a decline of 1.6 percent decline in the first quarter. Two consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP is the classic definition of a recession
The consumer price index hit a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June — an astounding level of inflation for an economy that was apparently shrinking
As the warning sings for the recession that was realized on Thursday loomed larger over previous weeks, the Biden administration took active steps to cast doubt over the definition of a recession and instead began talking about a period of ‘slowing growth.’
In a weekend interview with NBC, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said ‘this is not an economy that’s in recession. But we’re in a period of transition in which growth is slowing and that’s necessary and appropriate and we need to be growing at a steady and sustainable pace.’
On Monday National Economic Council Director Brian Deese repeated Yellen’s claims, referring to ‘this period of uncertainty, to a period of more stable, steady growth.’
President Biden himself latched onto the phrase, denying outright that there was any recession.
‘We’re not going to be in a recession, in my view,’ he told reporters on Monday, ‘My hope is we go from this rapid growth to steady growth.’
Biden faced fierce criticism on Thursday when he still failed to mention the word recession in a statement released after the Commerce Department announced the figures which showed the US had entered a textbook recession.
‘It’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,’ Biden said instead.
‘But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure,’ he added, citing strong consumer spending and a low unemployment rate as signs that the US economy remains robust.
The White House denied that the US meets the criteria for a recession, saying a panel of economists must officially declare that the economy is no longer expanding.
Republican critics accused the administration of flying in the face of reality, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying in a floor speech: ‘You would rather redefine a recession than restore a healthy economy.’
The Commerce Department’s new report was unexpected news, as most economists had forecast modest GDP growth in the second quarter.
Response from the stock market was muted, however. The Dow dropped 186 points, or 0.58 percent, in morning trading, a relatively small move for the index that has regularly posted much bigger swings in recent volatile trading.
Investors may be hoping that the shrinking economy will push the Federal Reserve to halt or reverse its aggressive path of interest rate hikes ahead of the central bank’s next policy meeting in September.
Biden’s full statement on shrinking US economy
‘Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth – and regaining all the private sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis – it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation. But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure. Our job market remains historically strong, with unemployment at 3.6% and more than 1 million jobs created in the second quarter alone.
‘Consumer spending is continuing to grow. Earlier this week, I met with the Chairman of SK Group from Korea, just one of the companies investing more than $200 billion in American manufacturing since I took office, powering a historic recovery in American manufacturing.
‘My economic plan is focused on bringing inflation down, without giving up all the economic gains we have made. Congress has an historic chance to do that by passing the CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act without delay.’
The Fed has been raising benchmark interest rates to tackle soaring inflation, but higher rates tend to put a damper on growth by making it more expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow.
However, even as the economy ground into reverse in the first half of the year, the Fed’s higher rates have not yet put a dent in rising consumer prices.
The consumer price index hit a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June — an astounding level of inflation for an economy that was apparently shrinking.
Biden said in his statement on Thursday that his ‘economic plan is focused on bringing inflation down, without giving up all the economic gains we have made.’
The president called on Congress to pass Democrats’ new Inflation Reduction Act, a scaled-back version of Biden’s Build Back Better package that would increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund $433 billion in spending on climate and healthcare initiatives.
In response, Republican critics lashed out furiously at the Biden administration, blaming the Democrats’ policies for slowing growth and lashing the White House for denying that a recession has arrived.
‘We can’t afford Democrats ‘ failed policies,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in floor remarks Thursday. ‘But we are certainly paying for them.’
‘You would rather redefine a recession than restore a healthy economy,’ he added.
‘This is Joe Biden’s recession. Biden can lie and deflect blame all he wants, but that will not alleviate the pain Americans feel every time they fill up their gas tanks, go grocery shopping, check their retirement savings, or balance their budgets,’ said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement.
‘Biden and Democrats are responsible for our shrinking economy, and they’re only trying to make it worse,’ she added.
Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth constitutes the informal and widely recognized definition of a recession.
But the White House has been furiously combatting the notion that six months of economic contraction amounts to a recession, issuing statements and briefings to push their message that the economy remains strong.
‘While some maintain that two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP constitute a recession, that is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle,’ the White House said in a statement last week.
The statement added: ‘it is unlikely that the decline in GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession.’