BusinessWeek can usually be counted on to do Wall Street's heavy lifting, but that august publication drew a line in the spreadsheet when it came to the revisionist history of the latest report from Dubya's Council of Economic Advisers. On Feb. 23, BusinessWeek reported that the CEA's Economic Report of the President unilaterally changed the start date of the last recession to benefit Bush's reelection bid. "Instead of using the accepted start date of March 2001, the CEA announced that the recession really started in the fourth quarter of 2000—a shift that would make it much more credible for the Bush administration to term it the 'Clinton Recession,'" writes BusinessWeek's Michael J. Mandel. Not only is this ploy dishonest, Mandel wrote, it "masks an attack on one of the few remaining bastions of economic neutrality. For almost 75 years, the start and end dates of recessions have been set by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private nonpartisan research group based in Cambridge, Mass."
It's possible Bush learned a lesson from his father's administration, which hoped during the '92 election season that the NBER would declare the recession of '90-'91 over. That announcement did not come until a month after George H.W. Bush was turned out of office.