FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Big Double-Dip

It was just as recently as a year ago that the authorities in politics, business and academe were stating boldly and confidently that the nation’s economy was on the mend, and that there was no chance of a backslide into recession again.

Take Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji who are, respectively, co-founder and chief operating officer and co-founder and chief research officer of ECRI, the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

“The good news is that the much-feared double-dip recession is not going to happen,” they said on CNN on Oct. 28, last year. “After completing an exhaustive review of key drivers of the business cycle, ranging from credit to inventories and measures of labor market conditions, we can forecast with confidence that the economy will avoid a double dip.”

“We will not have a double-dip recession at all,” said Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire investor called, by his fans, the Oracle of Omaha, back on September 13, 2010. “I see business coming back almost across the board,” he told an assembled group of bankers.

And of course, there was Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who actually acts on his presumed wisdom, saying, on June 8, 2010, “”There seems to be a good bit of momentum in consumer spending and investment,” he said at the time. “My best guess is we’ll have a continued recovery [but] it won’t feel terrific.”

Even a Vistage Survey of CEOs, conducted release last Oct. 4, showed the confidence index respondents, all top executives at public companies, saying there was “no evidence” for a double dip back into recession in the nation’s economic future.

So much for expert opinion.

This week we have seen new unemployment claims top 400,000 for the eighth week in a row. Manufacturing has fallen to where it was in 2009, the respected Case-Shiller Housing Index has declared that the housing price collapse has gone into a second dip, with home prices nationwide now back down to where they were in 1999 and still falling, and consumer confidence, according to the Conference Board, is down to 60.8 (in 1988 it was 100), a serious slump in a nation where 72 percent of the economy consists normally of consumer spending.

Okay, we’re not in a second round of recession yet, but with economic “growth” slumping into to 1.8 percent for the first quarter of this year, and nothing up ahead to suggest it will get better, there’s every reason to think we could move into negative territory before long.

Also, this stuff about recession is a bit nebulous anyhow. A recession is defined as two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, but when you go from 3% growth — the bare minimum in theory to have jobs being created at a rate sufficient to employ all the new workers entering the job market — to 1% or 2%, it might as well be called a recession. Some companies may still be making profits by operating at a lower than capacity level, but unemployment will be rising, people will be getting poorer, more homes will be going into foreclosure, schools will be laying off teachers, and the general level of misery in the nation will be rising.

Incumbent politicians might try to call that a “recovery,” but that’s really stretching the English language.

So how did all these supposedly smart people get things so wrong?

Any fool can see the problem. The Americans who own their own homes have seen what they thought was their major asset shrink in value by at least a third. Don’t even talk about what meager savings they might have had. Back in July 2008, before the markets crashed, Americans had a total indebtedness of $2.5 trillion. The average American was reportedly saving less than $400 per year. We were living on credit, not saving. Those who did have some money saved and who had been investing it saw it lose 43% of its value almost overnight.

Sure, some of those people, who left their money sitting in the same equities they had been in before the crash got most of it back this year, but an awful lot of those people cashed out at the bottom, not wanting to risk losing any more. Their loses are permanent. Others cashed out because they lost their jobs and needed the money. Their losses are permanent.

This is what the too-smart economists, politicians and CEOs simply don’t get. In their world–the one that just looks at P&L statements, shares words of “wisdom” over golf tees, and profits from illegal but routine insider tips on investment opportunities the rest of us don’t learn about–things look pretty good. Companies are profitable, having laid off huge swaths of workers, bashed unions, won pay and benefit “give-backs” from employees and tax breaks from politicians, elected officials have been re-elected, thanks to friendly backing from the corporate media, and plenty of lucre from corporate PACs, and the tax breaks for the rich that were enacted under the prior Bush/Cheney administration have been extended by the Obama administration, so the well-heeled don’t even have to pay much in taxes.

In our world, though, there are higher taxes, higher gas prices, higher food prices, increased bank charges, miniscule interest or no interest at all on any savings, higher tuition and less in financial aid for our kids, no jobs, pay cuts, and if we’re laid off, there’s no more health care.

So where do the happy-talk forecasters of “recovery” get the idea that we ordinary Americans are going to get out there and spend? Where do they get the idea that the great consumer “engine” that powered the economy for the last three or four decades is going to rev up again?

These idiots should go walk around a few shopping malls. What a dismal experience that is!

They should go stand in an unemployment office application line and talk to a few of the newly laid-off. Of better yet, volunteer at a food bank and talk to the people coming in for food assistance (at least that way these parasites would be doing something useful while they did their research).

If they did a little of that real research, they might not be so quick to make jackasses of themselves again, predicting confidently that there’s no double-dip recession in the cards for the US economy.

I’m not holding my breath, but whether they take my advice or not, I’m ready to offer them a challenge: let’s check back this time next year, and see who was right, them or me.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper, about to celebrate its first full year of operation on June 6.

?

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
Kim Ives
Who is Jean-Henry Céant, Haiti’s New Prime Minister Nominee?
Ted Rall
Corporate Democrats Would Rather Lose Than Include Progressives
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America: the New York Emirate on a Bike
Manuel García, Jr.
Guesstimating Our Own Götterdämmerung
Basav Sen
Want to Create More Jobs? Reduce Fossil Fuel Use
Kent Paterson
The Great Crisis of Albuquerque
Yolanda Parker
I Grew Up in the Segregated South, For Me Supreme Court Rulings are Personal
John W. Whitehead
Institutionalizing Intolerance
Larry Checco
No More Whining on the Yacht
Dean Baker
Trump Derangement Syndrome at the NYT
Colin Todhunter
India: The State of Independence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail