By Alan W. Dowd

What’s a Recession?
As pundits and politicians debate whether we’re in the beginning, middle or end of a recession, it may be helpful to define exactly what a recession is. Regrettably, even the experts seem to disagree.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, for example, defines a recession simply, and vaguely, as “a period of reduced economic activity.”

BusinessDictionary.com defines it as a “period of general economic decline, defined usually as a contraction in the GDP for six months (two consecutive quarters) or longer. Marked by high unemployment, stagnant wages and fall in retail sales, a recession generally does not last longer than one year and is much milder than a depression.”

But according to The Washington Times, “The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is the official arbiter of when recessions begin and end. Interestingly, quarterly GDP data are not even included among the four (monthly) data series that the committee examines before making its decisions. Officially, the NBER committee defines a recession, which it calibrates by month (and not by quarter), as ‘a significant decline in activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, visible in industrial production, employment, real income and wholesale-retail trade.’”

Doing Your Duty
90 percent of Americans feel it is their duty as a citizen to vote
64 percent of Americans say they feel guilty when the didn’t vote
34 percent of Americans consider themselves Democrats
34 percent of Americans consider themselves Independents
25 percent of Americans consider themselves Republicans

Source: The American Magazine

During the last presidential election…
55 percent of whites were registered to vote
44 percent of blacks were registered to vote
23 percent of Hispanics were registered to vote
46 percent of the electorate was male
54 percent of the electorate was female
63 percent of the electorate was married
83 percent of the electorate was 30 or older

Source: The American Magazine

As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.