Business: A Borderline Case of Recession?

WHEN I use a word," Humpty Dumpty told Alice in Through the Looking Glass, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." To a layman, that might seem to sum up the spirit in which economists are now debating whether the U.S. is undergoing a "recession."

The question becomes more insistent with each new crop of statistics. Last week automakers disclosed that in the middle ten days of February sales of new cars dropped 19% below the same period last year. General Motors scheduled temporary shutdowns of ten assembly plants, Ford...