FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Invisible Recession

by DEAN BAKER

Millions of Americans are still suffering from the Great Recession. People across the country are struggling to find jobs, and families nationwide have had banks foreclose on their homes. It is against this backdrop that President Obama gave his speech on the budget.

While he did make the point that the wealthy can afford to pay more taxes, the speech confirms the administration’s agenda of deficit reductions. But with an 8.8 percent unemployment rate, a budget agenda that stresses jobs is what the nation needs.

To understand why the focus should be on jobs instead of deficit reduction, it is important to remember how we reached this point.

Two years ago the economy was in a free fall as a result of the collapse of the Wall Street-fueled housing bubble. In the four months between December 2008 and April 2009 alone, the economy lost more than 3 million jobs; it would go on to lose nearly 5 million more.

Almost $8 trillion in housing bubble wealth disappeared as house prices plummeted.

The private sector lost more than $1.2 trillion in annual demand, roughly half of this due to lost construction demand and the other half due to lost consumption demand.

President Obama rightly proposed a second stimulus package — the first was passed in February 2008 and signed by President George W. Bush — to try to make up for lost demand from the private sector.

Government stimulus was the right path because private sector spending would not increase on its own. There is no magical potion that can somehow generate $1.2 trillion in new demand from the private sector alone. Businesses invest and hire when they see demand for their products. They all had huge excess capacity in 2009; this meant that there would be little new investment.

Similarly, consumers were heavily indebted now that they had lost so much housing wealth. This meant that they would not consume.

If the government did not spend money, no one was going to. This would have meant high unemployment rates long into the future, just as happened during the Great Depression.

The stimulus package helped to reverse the economic decline, but it was not nearly large enough. The package came to roughly $300 billion a year in tax cuts and new spending, roughly one-quarter the size of the shortfall created by collapse of the housing bubble. And much of this stimulus faded out by the end of last year.

This is where President Obama’s plan should have stepped in to make up for the lack of demand in the economy. Spending by the government has, in the past, helped to stimulate demand.

But instead of explaining to the public the need for the government to make up the spending gap until the private sector recovers, President Obama is now pushing the line from Wall Street that we have a huge deficit problem. Remarkably the same people who wrecked the economy in the first place are again dictating our country’s economic policy.

The reality is that cutting the deficit means cutting demand in the economy and fewer jobs. There is no storeowner or factory manager anywhere in the country who is going to hire people because the government reduced its deficit.

President Obama is apparently prepared to abandon the tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers who are the victims of Wall Street’s recession in order to please Wall Street bankers and Washington pundits. This is not a good day.

DEAN BAKER is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This article originally appeared on CNN.

More articles by:

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail