Monday, March 09, 2009

Has the economy really fallen off a cliff?

Colorful metaphors are great fun, but never terribly enlightening. Warren Buffet is an endless source of colorful metaphors, the latest of which is his allusion that the U.S. economy has "fallen off a cliff." He uttered this odd characterization in an interview on CNBC [but... but... but... I thought their credibility had "fallen off a cliff" after Jon Stewart's "takendown"!!! Have they rehabilitated themselves already?!?!] that is summarized in a Reuters article by Jonathan Stempel entitled "Buffett says economy fell off cliff, fears inflation."

Now, to be fair, maybe Mr. Buffett considers any recession to be a "cliff." Sure, any contraction of economic activity is not to be desired, but the simple fact is that the "fall" to date of the U.S. economy has been only a "few" percent, which is hardly a cliff.

Now, the stock market can be legitimating characterized as having "fallen off a cliff", but there has been no comparable decline in the overall real economy, whether you look at GDP, employment, income, or spending.

To be clear, yes, the U.S. is experienced a severe "structural contraction", that may leave the U.S. economy 5% to 10% smaller over the next year or two, but that hardly constitutes a "cliff."

A fall from a cliff is not something that you survive. The U.S. economy is surely going to survive.

Mr. Buffett enjoys being colorful, something that CNBC is well-positioned to promote, but not for any socially useful purpose.

-- Jack Krupansky

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