As Americans struggle to keep up with the rising tide of prices and feel the squeeze of high interest rates on housing, President Joe Biden continues to claim that the economy is good. “Bidenomics” is working, there’s no recession to see here, so shut up and enjoy the drag queen performances at the White House.

That narrative took a hit back in 2022, however, when America experienced two consecutive quarters of decline in gross domestic product—the traditional definition of a recession. In the first quarter of 2022, inflation-adjusted GDP declined in the U.S. by 1.6%, and it declined by an additional 0.6% in the second quarter of that year.

The Biden administration responded by simply redefining the word “recession.” The move made a bizarre kind of sense coming from a bureaucracy that has redefined what it means to be a woman.

The White House stated in July 2022 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.”

The Heritage Foundation, a stick-in-the-mud organization that doesn’t support willy-nilly redefining words to suit the woke movement, decided to get to the bottom of this whole redefining-a-recession nonsense. Heritage’s Oversight Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request in July 2023, asking the Treasury Department for internal communications regarding recessions. (Heritage created The Daily Signal in 2014.)

Treasury asked Heritage to narrow the parameters of the request. It did so. Treasury refused to hand over the documents by the time required by law. Heritage sued. Late last month, Treasury handed over some documents.

The catch? Most of the conversations in those documents have been redacted.

To be sure, we do get little gems like “I’d be glad to discuss tomorrow or Monday,” and “Thank you for forwarding.” These largely meaningless pleasantries are among the few words Treasury apparently deems nonthreatening enough to reveal to the public.

Many pages simply feature a large black box redacting the entire page.

One email shows Treasury staff discussing a quote from the International Monetary Fund stating that a “technical recession” consists of two quarters of economic decline.

“For the United States, some indicators, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow forecasting model, suggest that a technical recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth) may already have started,” Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to Biden, quoted the IMF in an email on July 26, 2022.

Treasury redacted Sperling’s own words in his email, along with the substance of every email responding to him.

So, Heritage plans to sue again.

“The Oversight Project sued the Treasury Department to seek answers on why the Biden administration gaslit the American people into changing the definition of recession,” Kyle Brosnan, chief counsel at the Oversight Project, told The Daily Signal. “We have received multiple document productions from our lawsuit showing that there were a lot of communications about this change, but excessive redactions have hampered our ability to determine the truth.  We intend to challenge these redactions as we progress in the case.” 

The Biden administration’s apparent attempt, yet again, to hide the substance of internal discussions about the definition of a recession raises more questions than answers.

Did Treasury officials intentionally twist the definition in order to politically protect Biden in a midterm election year? Did they develop strategies for hiding negative economic news that might interfere with the 2024 election? If they weren’t trying to monkey with the definition of recession, why are they so insistent on hiding that fact?

Perhaps the Biden administration merely wishes to redefine “transparency,” as well.