New York Times guest writer blames 'vibe-cession' for US economic woes: 'The vibes in the economy are… weird'

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A New York Times guest essay is taking heat for its insistence that “weird vibes in the economy” are setting the stage for a recession as economists and consumers alike say the recession has already arrived.

“The vibes in the economy are… weird. That weirdness has real effects,” author Kyla Scanlon wrote Thursday. 

Scanlon claimed the U.S. economy is less focused on reality and more focused on interpretations of reality, including how consumers react in response to talks of economic decline.

“When policy is more focused on indicators that might not fully reflect reality, and not on the silly and messy people whom the policy is meant to serve, we enter dangerous territory,” she wrote.

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The New York Times building.
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“There is no recession yet. Right now we are in a ‘vibe-cession’ of sorts — a period of declining expectations that people are feeling based on both real-world worries and past experiences.”

Scanlon also blamed “noise” about the economy for the negative assumptions American consumers have formed, writing the economy is a testament of what people do and, when too much bad air conquers the circulating narrative, it can lead people to “expect the worst.”

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Despite indicators pointing to a recession, Scanlon claimed the recession has yet to arrive, and people are simply fearing the worst is yet to come, writing, “What people expect can soon end up happening, and right now, with worsening data, many people’s expectations have come together to expect a recession. And those expectations could very well lead to one.”

Toilet paper and paper towels shelves are seen empty at a supermarket in Miami Beach, Florida on January 13, 2022. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
(CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The article goes on to list the overwhelming series of economic woes indicated by key figures, including the second consecutive decline in gross domestic product (GDP), a surge in jobless claims and a 9.1 percent surge in Consumer Price Index – implying these dismal figures are behind the “bad vibes” people feel.

“Economic indicators are a Jackson Pollock painting of data points and trends,” Scanlon added. “If we’re not careful, flawed assumptions — what John Maynard Keynes called ‘animal spirits’ or what the economist Fischer Black called ‘noise’ — will fill that gap and fulfill our worst expectations.”

The discussion shifted to consumer confidence – significantly wounded over consecutive months – as well as the housing market and corporate price gouging, all considered possible factors in the negative energy coming from consumers.

“Things are off. And if they don’t improve, we will have to worry about more than bad vibes,” Scanlon warned.

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Twitter users slammed the article’s claims, including Stephen Miller, contributing editor at The Spectator, who tweeted screenshots from the article and wrote, “Your bad vibes are to blame for this recession, man. Why can’t you just chill about the economy and be cool?”

Others in the comments of Miller’s post voiced their own economic woes, sharing how much inflation has raised their grocery costs and pushing back against the narrative that American consumers are the problem.

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