National Review Online contributing editor Donald Luskin wrote on May 5, "So far the work from Media Matters isn't very impressive. But what should we expect when the Left is put in charge of a quest for truth?" Luskin then goes on to attack our report "Backdating the Recession," in which we point out that conservatives have been falsely claiming that George W. Bush "inherited a recession" from President Bill Clinton.
Luskin takes Media Matters for America to task, writing:
In fact, NBER has been on the verge of changing the recession's start date for this very reason. According to the Washington Post earlier this year,
NBER President Martin Feldstein said, 'It is clear that the revised data have made our original March date for the start of the recession much too late,' but he did not offer a different date. 'We are still waiting for additional monthly data before making a final judgment,' said Feldstein, a Harvard University economist. 'Until we have the additional data, we cannot make a decision.'
Media Matters chooses not to mention this fact.
Luskin is right: We didn't mention it, for four reasons:
It doesn't matter if, at some point in the future, NBER changes its mind about when the recession began: At the time that Hannity & Co asserted that Bush "inherited a recession," that claim was contradicted by NBER's findings.
NBER isn't "on the verge" of changing the recession's start date, as Luskin falsely claimed. The article he cited is more than three months old. How "on the verge" can they be if they've gone three months without taking action?
Luskin apparently stopped reading The Washington Post back in January -- otherwise, he'd know that the paper reported on March 5, "NBER is examining revised economic statistics to see if the official date should be moved earlier, but spokeswoman Donna Zerwitz said there is 'nothing imminent.'"
Feldstein -- who, as we noted, was a Bush campaign adviser -- says NBER can't make a decision without further information. That means that, without further information, their previous decision stands. That means that, according to NBER, the recession began in March 2001. This isn't complicated stuff, is it?