Is it still a recession?

December 14, 2009 1:29:03 PM PST
Thanks Larry. It's good to know that you think the recession is over. Oh, sure, technically I suppose we are into the cycle where there have been two consecutive quarters of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Just like, technically, the recession didn't officially start until December, 2007, when we were into the end of the second straight quarter of a dropping GDP. Yup, Larry Summers, the former head of Harvard, sure has the common touch. And I guess the folks on Wall Street ? the ones who are left ? would agree with him. So let's party like it was 1999, eh?

Don't feel like partying as if the recession were over? Maybe we should all write to Mr. Summers, the President's economic guru,

and let him know that, for most people, the recession is still alive and kicking, thankyouverymuch. And he can take his GDP and??.

All the President's men may be fighting for health care reform, but it's jobs that peeps need. Increasing the troop numbers in Afghanistan ain't going to make that happen. But getting banks to loan money? That's one way to create jobs and spark the economy ? and, just by coincidence, the president today met with bankers and lobbied for that. And we love the headline on the ABCNews.Com story: "Obama Tells Banks, Get Off Your Assets." (Some of the New York-based bankers were stuck here because of the weather; they communicated electronically with their colleagues at the White House.)

But, with all due respect to Mr. Summers ? he is a smart, if not the most sensitive and tactful guy ? the recession to most people is very much still with us.

And you have to look no further than New York to make that determination. In fact, you can look at today's news alone to draw that conclusion.

The state budget is millions in the red ? and now the Governor, acting with what he deems as near-emergency powers, has determined on his own that he's got to cut funding in several arenas to prevent the state from, literally, running out of money. Cuts to schools are happening, right now.

And the MTA ? the poor, befuddled, beat-up, disrespected, humiliated, mathematically challenged bus and subway agency ? is now trying to up hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls. Cutting service is apparently the way to go ? fewer subway trains, fewer subway lines, fewer bus routes, fewer workers, and, dramatic drum roll please, the phasing out and then elimination of the free student subway and bus fares.

It costs about $800 a year to give students ? hundreds of thousands of them ? free weekday bus and subway rides. It's good for the environment and helps the students' parents, who are, Mr. Summers' assessment notwithstanding, in recession-like financial shape. Next year those student fares will be phased out by a factor of 50%, and eliminated the year after. For a family with two kids, that means $1,600 a year to bus and/or subway their kids to and from school.

And if you do the math, as our N.J. Burkett suggested I do, it amounts to hundreds of millions in added MTA revenue.

But if you do the human math, it's yet another burden to the already-financially soaked populace.

Tonight at 11, we'll take a look at these cuts, and we'll have reaction.

Also at 11, the New York City Health Dept. has done a creative job trying to get people to stop smoking and eat healthy. Tonight, their latest campaign is aimed at folks who drink sugared soda. Gross is a charitable description of the latest TV spot. Lucy Yang takes a look at it, and has reaction.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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