Comedian-turned-economist Jon Stewart is at it again, declaring that “the world is apparently collapsing” because of the subprime mortgage “crisis” and that it would take 15 to 20 years for the “free market” to reverse an economic downturn. And he’s getting support from a CNN financial analyst.
“Yes, we are talking recession here. People will lose their jobs,” Gerri Willis told Stewart in a January 24 appearance on his Comedy Central show. “We already have high jobless rate in this country right know, certainly gone up.”
The media have a tendency to point out that the 5-percent unemployment rate in December 2007 was the highest in two years, but few mentioned it was still below the 10- and 30-year averages.
“People are losing their homes. This is serious stuff and I, you know, you don't want to see people out of work, losing their homes,” she said.
For a brief moment, it seemed as though Stewart might have a word to say about markets correcting the problem without government intervention. But alas, he responded, “Or in a free market economy, are we to just sit back and go, ‘This will work itself out in 15 to 20 years or whatever it is.”
Fifteen to 20 years? According to Business Week, economic downturns since World War II have lasted an average of 11 months , with the longest being 18 months. Stewart’s hyperbole might be funny, but unfortunately it’s also wildly misleading.
Rather than correct the absurdity, Willis used the joke as an opportunity to push for more government involvement.
“You know sometimes regulators come in early and they say you know, maybe there should be standards for this,” she said. “You know, I think there might have been some failures in regulations.”
Stewart’s misrepresentation of the way the economy actually works is understandable. After all, even he’ll tell you, he’s just a comedian. But Willis should now better than to reinforce his mischaracterizations and continue the doom-and-gloom analysis so prevalent in the media .