FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Missing Recovery

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Officially, since June 2009 the US economy has been undergoing an economic recovery from the December 2007 recession.  But where is this recovery?  I cannot find it, and neither can millions of unemployed Americans.

The recovery exists only in the official measure of real GDP, which is deflated by an understated measure of inflation, and in the U.3 measure of the unemployment rate, which is declining because it does not count discouraged job seekers who have given up looking for a job.

No other data series indicates an economic recovery. Neither real retail sales nor housing starts, consumer confidence, payroll employment, or average weekly earnings indicate economic recovery.

Neither does the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. The Fed’s expansive monetary policy of bond purchases to maintain negative real interest rates continues 3.5 years into the recovery.  Of course, the reason for the Fed’s negative interest rates is not to boost the economy but to boost asset values on the books of “banks too big to fail.”

The low interest rates raise the prices of the mortgage-backed derivatives and other debt-related assets on the banks’ balance sheets at the expense of interest income for retirees on their savings accounts, money market funds, and Treasury bonds.

Despite recovery’s absence and the lack of job opportunities for Americans, Republicans in Congress are sponsoring bills to enlarge the number of foreigners that corporations can bring in on work visas. The large corporations claim that they cannot find enough skilled Americans. This is one of the most transparent of the constant stream of lies that we are told.

Foreign hires are not additions to the work force, but replacements. The corporations force their American employees to train the foreigners, and then the American employees are discharged. Obviously, if skilled employees were in short supply, they would not be laid off. Moreover, if the skills were in short supply, salaries would be bid up, not down, and the 36% of those who failurepcrgraduated in 2011 with a doctorate degree in engineering would not have been left unemployed. The National Science Foundation’s report, “Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities,” says that only 64% of  the Ph.D. engineering graduates found a pay check.

As I have reported on numerous occasions for many years, neither the payroll jobs statistics nor the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job projections show job opportunities for university graduates. But this doesn’t stop Congress from helping US corporations get rid of their American employees in exchange for campaign donations.

There was a time not that long ago when US corporations accepted that they had obligations to their employees, customers, suppliers, the communities in which they were located, and to their shareholders.  Today they only acknowledge obligations to shareholders. Everyone else has been thrown to the wolves in order to maximize profits and, thereby, shareholders’ capital gains and executive bonuses.

By focusing on the bottom line at all costs, corporations are destroying the US consumer market. Offshoring jobs reduces labor costs and raises profits, but it also reduces domestic consumer income, thus reducing the domestic market for the corporation’s products. For awhile the reduction in consumer income can be filled by the expansion of consumer debt, but when consumers reach their debt limit sales cannot continue to rise.  The consequence of jobs offshoring is the ruination of the domestic consumer market.

Today the stock market is high not from profits from expanding sales revenues, but from labor cost savings.

US economic policy has been focused away from the real problems and onto a consequence of those problems–the large US budget deficit. As no interest group wants to be gored, Congress has been unable to deal with the trillion dollar plus annual budget deficit, the continuation of which raises the specter of dollar collapse and inflation.

John Maynard Keynes made it clear long ago, as has Greece today, that trying to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP by austerity measures doesn’t work.

Among the countries in the world the US is in a unique position. It not only has its own central bank to provide the money necessary to finance the government’s deficit, but also the money that is provided, the US dollar, is the world’s reserve currency used to settle international accounts among all nations and, thus, always in demand.  The dollar thus serves as the world’s transaction currency and also as a store of value for countries with trade surpluses who invest their surpluses in US Treasury bonds and other dollar-denominated assets.

Without the support that the reserve currency status gives to the dollar’s exchange value (its price in foreign currencies), the enormous expansion in the quantity of dollars produced by the Fed’s years of quantitative easing would have resulted in a drop in the dollar’s exchange value, a rise in interest rates, and a rise in inflation. Since my time in government, the US has become an import-dependent economy, and import-dependent economies are subject to domestic inflation when the currency loses exchange value.

To sum up, the corporations’ focus on the bottom line has disconnected US incomes from the production of the goods and services that the American people consume, thus weakening and ultimately destroying the domestic consumer market.  The Fed’s focus on saving banks, which mindless deregulation allowed to become “too big to fail,” has created a bond market bubble of negative real interest rates and a dollar bubble in which the dollar’s exchange rate has not declined in keeping with the large increase in its supply. Both the corporations and the Fed have created a stock market bubble based on profits obtained from labor arbitrage (the substitution of cheaper foreign labor for US labor) and from banks speculating with the money that the Fed is providing to them.

This situation is untenable.  Sooner or later something will pop these bubbles, and the consequences will be horrendous.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book The Failure of Laissez-Faire Capitalism.

 

 

 

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail