FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—The Treasury Department under President Joe Biden has refused to hand over documents showing how officials decided to alter the definition of a recession after the first two quarters of 2022 saw declines in gross domestic product, the traditional definition of a recession.

The Heritage Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request on July 6, asking Treasury for internal communications containing the terms “recession,” “alternative definition of recession,” and “alternative recession measurements.” (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)

The Treasury Department first asked Heritage to narrow the scope of its request, which Heritage did. Yet Treasury failed to hand over the documents, so Heritage filed a lawsuit on Dec. 1, claiming the department violated the Freedom of Information Act.

“The Treasury’s job is to collect taxes and allocate revenue per the dictates of Congress, not engage in Orwellian word games to distract from the economic failures of the leftist agenda,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow with Heritage’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told The Daily Signal in a statement Tuesday.

The lawsuit quotes the International Monetary Fund, which notes that while “there is no official definition of recession … most commentators and analysts use, as a practical definition of recession, two consecutive quarters of decline in a country’s real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product.”

In the first quarter of 2022, U.S. inflation-adjusted GDP declined by 1.6%, and it declined by an additional 0.6% in the second quarter of last year.

In July 2022, however, the White House stated that “it is unlikely that the decline of the GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession.”

“This position is in extreme tension with conventional wisdom and the position of the Board of the Federal Reserve,” the lawsuit states.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit that aims to determine America’s business cycles, defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.” The bureau claimed that the decline in 2022 did not fit its definition.

The White House has repeatedly claimed that the economy is improving due to Biden’s economic policies it brands “Bidenomics.” Biden has touted declines in the rate of inflation—which in this case do not mean that prices have declined, but that they are rising at a slower pace—as if they meant inflation is no longer a factor affecting Americans.

“The Biden administration clearly isn’t too proud of their destructive ‘Bidenomics’ if they are hiding documents related to the most basic questions,” Mike Howell, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project and a signatory on the lawsuit, told The Daily Signal. “If ‘Bidenomics’ was so great, why do we have to sue them for this?”

Since Biden took office in 2021, inflation has outpaced wage increases in 27 of the past 31 months. According to Antoni, the Heritage researcher, the average American worker pays $4.97 per hour under Biden in the hidden tax of inflation, effectively doubling how much he or she pays in federal income tax. The typical American family with two parents working has lost more than $5,000 in annual income.

A Monmouth University poll surveying 803 U.S. adults between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4 found that 68% of respondents disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation.

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