(MARKETWATCH)

By Brett Arends

Many people are warning that if the government goes over the “fiscal cliff” next week, as seems increasingly likely, the U.S. economy could tumble back into recession.

But what if we already have?

Despite some misleading headlines, and some cheerleading in certain quarters, there are plenty of reasons to be worried that the economy could already be shrinking again, even before the wave of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for January.

Money manager John Hussman, chairman of Hussman Funds, is among those who think it is. “We continue to believe that the U.S. economy joined a global economic downturn during the third quarter of the year,” he wrote to investors recently.

He notes that most of the forward-looking indicators, including “industrial production, capacity utilization, real disposable income, real personal consumption, real sales, retail and food service sales, and real manufacturing and trades sales” are all pointing down.

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