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Published on: September 22, 2011
Panic?

That’s what we’ve been seeing on world markets since Thursday trading began in Asia; this morning it hit the US with the kind of sickening thud we remember too well from 2008. Amid the general hurricane of bad economic news a few things stand out. Chinese stocks fell almost 5 percent and key real estate […]

That’s what we’ve been seeing on world markets since Thursday trading began in Asia; this morning it hit the US with the kind of sickening thud we remember too well from 2008. Amid the general hurricane of bad economic news a few things stand out.

  • Chinese stocks fell almost 5 percent and key real estate company stocks were down by double digit percentages as fears grow that the long-delayed bursting of the China property bubble is here;
  • the European bank crisis is deepening, with the IMF sticking to its guns about the massive capital losses faced by the continent’s banks and BNP Paribas apparently trolling the Middle East in search of a big capital injection
  • the Federal Reserve’s new worries about the economy made a deeper impression on investors than its plans to support growth
  • some US banks are starting to look shaky again.

There are many more reasons for concern.  The continuing inability of Europe to cope with the euro troubles, the political impasse over economic policy in the United States, and the deer-in-the-headlights immobility of Japan do not inspire confidence.  The emerging economies — China, India, Turkey and Brazil — face increased difficulties of their own and will not pull the global economy out of the dumps.  That large corporations are sitting on cash hoards or buying back stock rather than making new investments is bad news; that consumers are cutting down debt and doing what they can to increase their savings is good news for the long term, but bad news now.  And it seems clear that two years of frantic efforts in Washington have failed to breathe new life into the nation’s housing market.

Trying to follow the US discussion from Tel Aviv, I’m impressed (as is so often the case) with its political and insular focus.  Will the worldwide economic crisis help or hurt President Obama’s chances for re-election in 2012?  Which political party is gaming the crisis best, and so will gain more or at least lose less voter support in the polls?

These questions have to be asked I suppose, but given what is going on in the world right now they are trivial.  It is almost as if on December 8, 1941, the press was filled with speculation about whether Franklin Roosevelt’s chances for a fourth term were helped or hurt by the attack — and whether GOP hopes to pick up more seats in the 1942 election would have to be put on hold.

The political speculation is worse than useless at this point.  Global economic events are moving so rapidly that we have no way of foreseeing the economic environment for next year.  It will probably not be very good, but how bad it will be and how it will look to voters cannot yet be foretold.

More to the point, we need policy discussions more than we need political ones.  This is not just about how big the deficit should be; it is about whether the international financial system will survive the next six months in the form we now know it.  It is about whether the foundations of the postwar order are cracking in Europe.  It is about whether a global financial crash will further destabilize the Middle East and, if so, what we and the Europeans are going to do about it.  It is about whether the incipient signs of a bubble burst in China signal the start of an extended economic and perhaps even political crisis there.  It is about whether the American middle class is about to be knocked off its feet once again and indeed whether the middle class as we’ve known it will survive.  It is about whether sovereign governments can still underwrite economic performance and financial stability in the leading economies of the world.

In all cases, I think the odds still favor outcomes well short of catastrophic and worst case scenarios — but the global economy is now in the catastrophe zone where speculation about such scenarios is no longer science fiction but becomes part of prudent planning.  This, one would hope, would engage the attention of politicians more than their poll numbers, and might even overshadow such awesomely important events as Republican presidential debates months before New Hampshire goes to the polls.  One would have liked to hear a little more about this from the heads of state at the typically bombastic and time wasting annual UN talkathon.

One of the reasons I launched this blog was a sense that the world is moving faster than our thought about the world.  The newly fluid international landscape in places like the Middle East, the accelerating disintegration of the economic underpinnings of the blue social model, the increasing effect of technological progress on white collar as well as blue collar employment and incomes through automation and outsourcing, the collapse of public faith in establishments and elites in so much of the world: these dramatic and fundamental changes require a re-examination of some basic assumptions and the reconstruction of many of the basic institutions of both US and global society.

It appears that while investors panic quickly and head for the exits at the first sign of trouble, many politicians, journalists and social thinkers go to sleep when the fire alarms begin to ring.  The success of the West in establishing a solid set of social, political and economic institutions and policies after World War Two was so durable that we came to believe that the arrangements made then would last forever, and that further change would be slow and evolutionary rather than quick and disruptive.

The success of central banks and governments at reining in inflation, easing recessions and achieving soft landings in the 1980s and 1990s further reassured us that while there were some problems and dangers here and there, our house stood on firm foundations and was structurally sound.

I still hope the old house can weather one more storm, but it is clear that we can no longer take that for granted.  The ground under the foundations is washing away; the wind threatens to rip off the roof, and cracks are appearing in load bearing walls. Sooner rather than later we are going to have to redesign and rebuild.

Financial market crashes come and go; the world may spin back into recession or the economy may wobble for a bit and then stabilize.  But we’ve had a glimpse into the abyss; in Europe, in Asia and in the Americas some of our most fundamental institutions and social policies are going to have to change.

show comments
  • Will

    The largest deficit in the US–and UK and Europe–is one of trust. That trust deficit makes policy discussions, let alone policy initiatives extremely difficult. Business and the wider public have been vicitim of various planning schemes so many times that experts and technocrats cannot get a fair hearing. Many of the technocrats dismiss criticism as selfish, stupid, or disloyal. So things get nowhere. It’s part of the deep failure of progressivism and the Blue Model you have discussed…

  • David

    A glimpse into the abyss? It appears more to me that we are whistling past the graveyard.

  • Dave

    Nightfall is coming but the sun will rise again, surely an exciting time to be alive.

  • Ironmike

    Well, now I’m depressed. I have a daughter attending Bard. Perhaps that $57,000 would be better spent on beans, rice and ammunition.

  • Mogden

    U.S. politicians specialize in the art of can kicking. So nothing has been done whatsoever to address the root causes of our problems, except make them worse for later via extend and pretend.

    When we finally wake up to the truth, the detonation will be astonishing.

  • TODO

    As far as the sad state of affairs in what’s left of the U.S.A, will the determinedly socialist “left” continue to persist with failed policies, with a stubborn, adamantly Marxist traitor President leading the charge?
    Appears so. Good night, America.

  • Lark

    “…some of our most fundamental institutions and social policies are going to have to change.

    Some explanation might be in order; I think the problem is that we’ve gotten too far away from our fundamental institutions.

  • Joseph Somsel

    Since the world’s financial troubles are directly the result of bad politics and poor leadership by our elites, the possibilities of changing those elites MUST be on the table.

    “Elites” are specific personages. Elections are how we replace them. The current people in charge will not behave differently in this crisis.

    Politics SHOULD be the focus since no stop-gap measure will solve the underlying problem.

    In other words, it will get worst before it gets better and we need new hands on the wheel of the ship of state.

  • WigWag

    “The newly fluid international landscape in places like the Middle East, the accelerating disintegration of the economic underpinnings of the blue social model, the increasing effect of technological progress on white collar as well as blue collar employment and incomes through automation and outsourcing, the collapse of public faith in establishments and elites in so much of the world: these dramatic and fundamental changes require a re-examination of some basic assumptions and the reconstruction of many of the basic institutions of both US and global society.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    This is all true; come hell or high water, a new economy will emerge on the ashes of the old. But none of this changes the fact that the solution to the looming economic disaster is at our finger tips if only we are willing to grasp it.

    John Maynard Keynes discovered that periodic economic downturns were not inevitable and that the cycles of boom and bust that characterized capitalist systems for generation were not immutable. The answer to ameliorating dire economic circumstances lies in countercyclical action by government.

    Critics of Keynes have been proven wrong again and again. Just a few months ago, these critics were contending that large fiscal deficits and loose monetary policy were about to set off a wave of inflation and catastrophic increases in interest rates.

    How did that work out?

    Both long term and short term interest rates are lower than they have been at any period in modern history; in fact, short term interest rates are approaching zero.

    Despite the debt downgrade by S&P and the machinations of House Republicans on the debt limit, investors are practically begging for the opportunity to buy U.S. sovereign debt. So great is their hunger and desperation that they are willing to buy this debt even if it offers virtually no return at all.

    All of this makes a massive shock and awe kind of stimulus package all the more affordable; it should be twice as large as anything tried before. Amazingly, the government is spending a smaller amount as a percentage of GDP to service its debt than it did in the 1990s. The reason is simple; even though the debt is far higher; interest rates are dramatically lower and they are headed no where but down.

    The fact that “conservatives” in the United States and Europe favor austerity as a solution demonstrates just how ignorant both policy makers and citizens can be. Austerity will only make things far worse.

    The solution to this problem is staring us right in the face. American leadership is, as always, the critical ingredient. There is simply no substitute for the United States stepping out front. The Europeans are too feckless, the emerging nations that Professor Mead mentions are far punier than many people believe them to be and the Chinese have their own financial bubble to contend with.

    What’s missing is an American president capable of rallying his nation, confounding his political enemies and explaining to a skeptical public why the rules that govern private behavior in an economic downturn are precisely the rules that government should not follow.

    Franklin Roosevelt was capable of doing this. The current Pretender-in-Chief is not.

    That’s why it looks like we are in for a crisis that could last a decade or more.

    ps: to all those Paul Krugman haters amongst Professor Mead’s readers; everything he has said about the current crisis has turned out to be prescient; everything his critics have said has turned out to be false.

  • NY Vic

    Thank you Walter.

    @IronMike – I’ve been depressed for a while. My son is almost 19 (in college) but since he was 16 when the 08 crisis hit – he’s not been able to land ONE part-time job.

    I worry for him and all of us.

  • Koblog

    Apparently, you can’t keep borrowing, inflating and paying people not to work.

    Keynes supposedly said, “In the long run, we’re dead.”

    Seems the “long run” is perilously close.

  • getreal

    When you contrast this pickle to prior crises you forget 3 related things:
    1) The real intent of tranzi globalists t dismantle the USA as a power and render her a weakened province in the “world order”
    2. The treason of our own elites in joining the tranzis
    3. The hollowing out of productive capacity inside the USa.

    These are the realizations of designs, they are not mere circumstances. The target s the American Middle class, and the “institutions” you appear to uphold are both weapons against that middle class and harbor to its enemies. America as it has been cannot prosper without a broad and affluent Middle Class.

    To restore the USA we must depose the elites and cast aside their Globalist project.

    You say that post war institutions where somehow “successful: heretofore. They were only successful to the extent that they furthered the tranzi elites agenda; they were a disaster for the nation at large..

    America has to return to the values ad systems that made her great. This means overturning the New Deal institutions ad all of their post WW2 accretions. These “institutions” have prove destructive to liberty and prosperity.

    If you take a good hard look at equity, bond values and index construction. You wills see that, adjusted for inflation ad wealth destruction, that we are back t the levels of the late 60’s r mid -70’s. The “success” you attribute to these institutions, so far as real Americana go, is an illusion.

    in Fact they just transferred abut 5.2 trillion bucks from the taxpayers to the elites, which ifs perhaps the biggest theft in hstory.

  • crypticguise

    I don’t believe there is anything we, the United States, could or should do to change or ameliorate what is happening in Europe. The EU never was a Union. The Euro Currency is once again going to be replaced and the various nations are going to default on their debt. Nothing will prevent this from occuring.

    In the Middle East, the one Nation we should be concerned about is Israel. That and the continuing flow of oil.

    Our major concern should be to turn around our own “ship of state” and our economy. We can do this; but first we have to rid ourselves of the socialist-Marxists in the White House and Congress. America will eventually come out of this much better than any other nation on earth. We can continue to be that shining star. Enough with statist, Soviet style approaches to social and economic engineering.

  • Yahzooman

    Have you ever mistakenly stepped on an ant hill?

    The little buggers not squished on my shoe start to scatter in all directions. “The end is near … and so is the other shoe,” they must be saying, “run for your lives.”

    We are not too far removed from this frantic colony.

    Like the ants, we are right to take action during a catastrophe. But directionless panic is not the answer.

    We need to:

    1) assess the damage
    2) elect a new leader
    3) make a plan
    4) work together
    5) jettison all that doesn’t work in today’s new circumstances (Blue State Model)
    6) rebuild

    The new model will feature more worker ants and fewer freeloaders/elites. No more room and no more patience for those who weren’t productive members.

  • Jim,MtnViewCA,USA

    I’m not a Krugman hater, personally, but as others have noticed he has often been on both sides of issues–when a Dem does it: “good”, when a Repub does the same thing: “bad”.

  • JDComment

    It would seem that the problem today is wealth or rather the lack thereof. The crisis eliminated trillions of dollars for the middle class, and we are going through the adjustment period that follows this “impoverishment”.

    One rout is to recreate the wealth, which evaporated in the real estate bubble. Since credit had a large say in this explosion of value, that seems to be the tack the Fed is taking in trying to reignite growth through ridiculously low interest rates. Of course this is just redoing the same thing that got us into trouble in the first place.

    The other scenario involves something very fundamental- a rethinking of what is wealth and what is valuable. What do we really need to be happy? What gives us true satisfaction as opposed to the never ending cycle of materialism and the fruitless quest for fulfilling a bottomless desire?

    Maybe its time for people to really CHANGE and this is the opportunity for it. That begs the question, can we change- I suspect we are going to find out.

  • boredatwork

    Whilst WigWag continues blissfully meandering in an alternate universe where Keynesian measures have had some worthwhile effect, the rest of us are faced with a pretty dire fix. Even if a magic wand were waved tomorrow, and the current reigning political ‘elites’ swapped positions with their opposites, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe would remain. The collapse of the blue societal model in the US would remain, the inevitable collapse of the various Chinese bubbles would remain, the instability of the Middle East would remain, the slow motion AfPak wars would remain.

    While politics can be a fun thing to focus on, and is an convenient manner of venting our frustrations, I fail to see how even drastic political change would appreciably alter the situation we face in the near term.

    At best, a change in political elites might affect how well or poorly governments respond to the crisis(es). A more thorough reconsideration of our elites, their roles, and composition, beyond merely who holds national electoral offices, is in order.

  • EJM

    Thanks again Prof. Mead for addressing the big questions above the political noise we are subjected to daily.

    You are absolutely right that financial crises come and go. They always will. The fatal conceit of the left-of-center Post-War consensus is that humans and in particular their governments can banish financial crises by “managing” them with fiscal and monetary policy. Like old generals they are perpetually fighting the last war, even as the world is changing so rapidly that the assumptions of even a few years ago seem outdated and irrelevant.

    The broader and even less examined conceit of the elites since WWII is that with financial crises we can also banish all risk to an ever increasing prosperity and elimination of all human want. Both this absurdly pollyanish but commonplace notion, and the pessimism about the future so prevalent today would have stunned and bemused out ancestors. Human life and therefore everything economic and political that flows from it is never in statis, never guaranteed, never be taken for granted as the inevitable norm. Goods and services must be produced by each new generation, freedom and human rights must be defended, and our basic institutions must be refreshed by the choices we and our children make. This is a lesson everyone in the western world seem to need to relearn.

    There are so many bad policy decisions that follow from our poor and mistaken assumptions, and these must be corrected by us or they will be by external events and unfriendly forces. Once we start recognizing these assumptions and fatal conceits underlying much of we have been doing, our problems will not vanish but the irrational anxiety and pessimism enveloping us will.

  • Anthony

    “Sooner rather than later we are going to have to redesign and rebuild.” Magnitude of capitalism’s problem WRM is yet to be grasped on many levels – science and technology whichout which modern capitalism cannot function constantly creates inner turmoil and confusion by way of new market innovations.

    WRM,solutions and new arrangements are needed but aims cannot be happenstance – and certainly leadership required possesed of characteristics yet displayed currently is imperative.

  • http://Inthisdimension.com Alex Scipio

    The adults need to get back in charge. Progressivism – that anti-evolutionary, anti-natural-selection cult of belief thant insists on rewarding those who are too lazy or too stupid, with the same middle-class lifestyle of those who are smarter and who work harder and take risks – must be seen as the utter civilizational failure that it is. Those who work, risk and are smart will succeed those who don’t and aren’t will not. That’s the choice: let the failures fail, or let them take everyone down with them. There is no third alternative no matter how much one may desire one.

  • Luap Leiht

    We’ve seen many of these problems coming for decades, but they have become intractable since about 1998 or 2000.

    As the Boomers gained control of the levers of power in government and industry, they have done one of two things:

    – Bickered while America burns (their favorite activity)

    – Whipped out the credit cards and went on a welfare to warfare shopping spree

    This problem will not be solved until a coalition of Generation X and the Millenials take the keys from the hands of our power-drunk elders.

    By my calculation, that will take another 10 years. Button up and hunker down, it’s going to be a rough road ahead.

    Hopefully when my elementary school children reach adulthood the American Dream will once again be attainable.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Which came first the chicken or the egg, corporate cash or Government Trillion Dollar borrowing?
    When the Government starts paying off the Debt, and filling the economy’s fuel tank with capital, then and only then will JOBS get created.

  • WigWag

    What makes the current economic crisis overwhelmingly sad is that it is a man-made phenomenon that was both preventable and is still curable. But the only way to actually effectuate that cure is for political leaders to stop emulating physicians who believed that they could cure their patients by bleeding them with leeches. Of course, to be fair, the patients need to stop demanding to be bled.

    One of Paul Krugman’s blog posts from today says it all,

    “…back around 1998 I was among those who looked at the crisis in Asia and realized what it implied — namely, that the problems that caused the Great Depression had not been solved, and that it could happen again. The speculative attacks on smaller nations, the liquidity trap in Japan, were omens for all of us. In 1999 I wrote a book, The Return of Depression Economics, saying all that.

    When the 2008 crisis struck, it was immediately clear that this was what we had been afraid of. And it was desperately important that policy makers realize that we were in a world where the usual rules no longer applied.

    But they didn’t. The banks were rescued — but as soon as that happened, the moralizers and deficit worriers, the people who see hyperinflation lurking under every bed, took over. Warnings that we were repeating not just the mistakes of Japan but the mistakes of Hoover and Bruening were waved away as the squeaking of people of no consequence, never mind the fact that some of us had pretty fancy credentials.

    And now we are exactly where I feared we’d be, repeating all the old mistakes and experiencing all the old consequences…”

    As for the “moralizers” and “deficit worriers” that Krugman mentions, how many months ago was it that they were warning that large deficits would lead to double digit inflation and spiking interest rates?

    For those who are interested, here are the interest rates for Treasury debt at the close of business today,

    2 Year Treasury Note: Yield 0.20% (a record low)

    10 Year Treasury Note: Yield 1.72 percent (a record low)

    30 Year Treasury Bond: Yield 2.80 percent (the lowest since 2008)

    It looks like all those who thought federal debt significantly in excess of 70 percent of GDP (and climbing) would lead to fears of default simply didn’t know what they were talking about.

    In light of all this, those who believe that the way to repair the economy is for the government to “live within its means” are little better than lemmings rushing towards the abyss.

  • willis

    “U.S. politicians specialize in the art of can kicking.”

    Only those we persist in returning to office.

  • Pete Dellas

    At some point we must examine the effect of monetary policy and the gamesmanship which is being played by our government with the working man’s wage–and really ALL people’s money.

    I think an illustration would be in order. Around 1910 my mom’s house was built up in central New Jersey. Back at that time, it cost around $4500 have built. The person who had it built could have gone to the builder and paid him 450 of our US $10 gold pieces and that would have paid for it. Those 450 gold $10 pieces represent about 225 oz of gold. In 1950, that gold would have been worth about $8600, and so was that house (give or take). In 1985 (after the last gold bubble popped) that gold would have been worth about $71,000, and the house about the same. In 2006, the house would have sold for $375,000+ but the gold was worth only $135,000. What happened? The HOUSE went DOWN to meet gold. In fact, last year the house and the price of gold were again in parity (about $250,000).

    Today, the price of that gold is $450,000 and the house (if left untouched) would still be worth about $230,000-$250,000. So, either gold is too high or the house is too low…or BOTH. Chances are GOLD is too high and the house is close to fairly valued. And, if the market is to be trusted, the house may actually still be a bit high, meaning that gold is even higher relative to that house. Of course, gold is high because people fear this very phenomenon I am writing about.

    Now the point: Those 225 oz of gold would have been able to buy that same house through all the last 100+ years. When they couldn’t, the house eventually came down, as in when this current housing bubble crashed. Now, the gold can buy practically 2 of those houses. It too will come down to meet the value of the home. Mark my words.

    What does this mean? It means that when FDR took us off the gold standard and the Federal Reserve Bank began to monetize the US debt, the inevitable and predictable result has been a slow creep away from retaining the US dollar’s value at some objective PAR (gold) and, rather, to slowly allow inflation to steal the working man’s wage. A person who gets a “raise” may think he’s taken a step forward. Little does he know that his purchasing power has been diminishing day by day, year after year, to the point that the US government has had to create artificial means by which to make inflation seem tame (i.e. multiplier effects, etc.). In the years before this Keynsian and monetary experimentation, interest paid to an investor was actually a bit of GAIN. Today, it is simply the cost of retaining the value of money over time. And it should be noted that gold, which was our money, remained at a little over $20 oz since the inception of t his nation (except for a short time during the Civil War–for obvious reasons).

    Let me add, there are many metrics that more “progressive economists” use (Paul Krugman comes to mind) which are used to discredit this analysis–the improving standard of living being chief among them. But the gains that we have had in our standard of living are the result of efficiencies, inventions and progress, importing cheap goods from places of cheap labor (before is was Japan, now China), etc. They are NOT primarily from an improving lot for wage earners

    Until we realize that we are ever trying to balance inflation with wages, and that wages have been on the losing end of that constantly, we will never see an end to this boom and bust cycle and the middle class will eventually disappear.

  • Don

    wig wag says “Just a few months ago, these critics were contending that large fiscal deficits and loose monetary policy were about to set off a wave of inflation and catastrophic increases in interest rates.

    How did that work out?”

    The Fed sets interest rates, and like the rest of Washington is kicking the can down the road by keeping interest rates low. Everybody has their heads down waiting for this thing to go off. Here’s a new saying for you, Too Big To Succeed. Come 2013 when conservatives (and the born again republicans) hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses, we can start unwinding the progressive idiocy of the last eighty years.

  • Peter

    Sorry to bring bad news but in an environment like we’re now heading, war becomes a distinct possibility.

    And I mean real war, not those Mickey Mouse activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And no, I don’t mean tomorrow or next week or even next year. But soon enough.

  • Pete Dellas

    And let me correct Mr. Wag…

    Inflation is REAL, sir, though the means of measurement has been changed to give the illusion that it isn’t. Corn products, gasoline and energy, insurance, etc, etc. is what people need to live.

    And interest rates are being kept ARTIFICIALLY low. They CERTAINLY aren’t low because of market reality. Just yesterday the Fed announced its newest low rate policy, called the “twist”, which consists of manipulating the long end of the yield curve by selling the short end of the curve and using the proceeds to buy long bonds. An who (pray tell) would buy a 10 year bond at 1.75% yield? Only the Fed, which is monetizing our debt and undermining the currency. A normal market using these high levels of debt would be more like Greece, which should be enough of an illustration for you. Pointing to low US rates is a tautology at this point.

    Being the world’s reserve currency may have its advantages. But God help us when the day comes that we aren’t. We keep exporting our inflation by way of our dollar, importing lower priced goods to keep it down.

    The Keynsian hypothesis has outlived its usefulness because Keynes never imagined using 30-40% annual deficits mostly to pay entitlements and fight wars.

  • John

    Things will be business as usual until the government goes bankrupt. The entrenched interests, including the welfare / food stamp / disability class will never relinquish their grip on the government teat. Never.

    Then we can have it out and get back to freedom.

  • Tex Taylor

    I’ll keep this very simple for the Keynesian proponents, whose pet theory has been an utter failure in every capacity.

    When you can convince me that elected officials, who happily purchase 250 muffins at $16.00 a piece on our dime are good stewards of our money, get back with me and I’ll listen to your arguments.

    Until then, I think we should minimize government in every way possible.

  • Bonfire of the Idiocies

    WE may have glimpsed the abyss but much of the political class and the media has deluded themselves into believing that it’s just a small gorge which they can easily paper over with continued “stimuli” and/or taxing the nebulous “rich” more. As the EU “leadership” has shown, plan A is to pretend there’s no problem and plan B is pretend it’s not THEM. Yes, they WILL need a ton of bricks to fall on them, apparently.

  • Nornus

    Politics must come before policy because one side of the political equation is stuck on stupid; to them every problem can be solved by Keynesian bubble inflation and doctrinaire redistribution. The fact that none of these things will help doesn’t bother them because they’ve been taught since their freshman year at Columbia that “deconstructing” corrupt capitalist institutions is necessary before real “change” can happen.

  • Orson

    Lark says, quoting WRM:”’…some of our most fundamental institutions and social policies are going to have to change.’
    “Some explanation might be in order; I think the problem is that we’ve gotten too far away from our fundamental institutions.”
    YES.

    Somsel says: “Politics SHOULD be the focus since no stop-gap measure will solve the underlying problem.

    “In other words, it will get worst before it gets better and we need new hands on the wheel of the ship of state.”

    YES-YES.

    And I’ve been predicting this crisis for over a year. Perhaps when the Democrats and Obama launched their pseudo-banking reforms the summer before sent my EMERGENCY bells ringing.

    Wigwag says:

    “Critics of Keynes have been proven wrong again and again.”
    A claim that proves WW is [not as smart as this commenter]!
    “Just a few months ago, these critics were contending that large fiscal deficits and loose monetary policy were about to set off a wave of inflation and catastrophic increases in interest rates.” WW is obviously NOT paying attention, like the clueless political class he fronts for.

    boredatwork gets it: “Even if a magic wand were waved tomorrow, and the current reigning political ‘elites’ swapped positions with their opposites, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe would remain. The collapse of the blue societal model in the US would remain, the inevitable collapse of the various Chinese bubbles would remain, the instability of the Middle East would remain, the slow motion AfPak wars would remain.”

    TRUE.

  • EJM

    WigWag:
    Krugman is exactly one of the elite policy wonks whose notions about “solving the problem” of the Great Depression which have gotten us deeper into debt and deeper into trouble since 2008. He, Bernanke, and Obama are still fighting the Depression of the 1930’s and drawing all the wrong lessons from it. The “mistakes of Hoover” were those of intervention which FDR double and tripled down on, prolonging the Depression for an entire decade. Instead, the earlier financial panic of the 20’s was ignored by Harding, and the country was booming again before long.

    Krugman is numero uno (behind perhaps only Obama) in his arrogant belief impervious to facts that he knows better. Fact is: The global economy is so complex that no one individual or even august assembly of experts knows exactly what to do or what the effects of any given policy will be. This is the fatal conceit Krugman displays exponentially magnified.

    Only those making millions of practical decisions daily –with the most relevant facts to their particular decision, and their own money–can be counted on to “solve” the “economy.” The “economy” doesn’t exist apart from these individual decisions.

    We must act on what we can understand and can control. No amount of economic doubletalk can make it rational to spend more than you have, or can reasonably expect to pay back. Everyone knows this in their personal lives. It does not suddenly become false when it involves 100 or 100 million. There is great danger in our great debt, not even for its absolute amount, but for its continuing increasing trajectory upwards. Treasury yields are low today because of market panic of all the alternatives. Do you believe one can print trillions of dollars or ersatz currency without eventually driving down the value of each dollar, and therefore increasing interest rates? Think.

  • Mark

    There will be: 1. A global financial market crash, and soon. 2. World War for resources (out and out, not ninny-nanny [fluff]). 3. Internal civil wars in developed countries.

    4. The US Civil War II is coming, whether erudite readers of blogs like it or not. Those who don’t work but take are going to get cut off that .gov teat when there is no more money, and they are not going to be okay with their EBT, SSI DIB, etc. cards being reloaded.

    Humans make it what, 3 days without food/water? Count on it, dear readers.

  • Kathy

    Armageddon Reconstruction – Notes Toward
    What is really happening in Wisconsin can be guide toward fixing Armageddon.Wisconsin had the same going off the cliff debt as everyone at the local school board level but this is now fixed – in one year, no layoffs execpt where unions kept their hold. 1. Getrid of collective barganing which specified all sorts of rules and created rigidities. One third of the deficit was solved by this because now teachers pay into their pension plan. Another third was solved because school districts are not required by contract to use the union health care plan which was over priced. A final third was solved by Governor Walker repealing a list of 500 rules and regulations for schools – this, together with the lack of union contracts left districts free to make all sorts of changes in schedules,school bus contracts, etc. eliminated the last of the deficit in most districts without layoffs.
    The point is that if the Wisconsin Plan was widely understood and adopted the state and local deficits would mostly disappear.

  • BKin VA

    Wigwag, (Comment #11) please, please put down the cup, and back slowly away from the Kool-Aid. Every dollar that the Govt. “invests” is a dollar they removed from the private sector. We have incurred the opportunity cost of that dollar’s investment in the marketplace. Your assumption is that somehow the Governemts new shiny dollar is blessed, and will multiply as it is plowed back into where- oh yeah- the marketplace. Maybe we should cut out the middleman known as the IRS, keep the government from deciding winners and losers, and let those who make good business decisions enjoy the benefits of their efforts, and thoise who make poor business decisions go away.

  • tezza

    I saw this coming for a while. The baby boomers are aging, dowsizing their homes and selling off their stocks.

    Meanwhile the foxes are running the henhouse. The politicians and the federal reserve perform a slow motion pick pocket so that one day Americans will wake up and find out their cookie jar is empty – someone stole all the cookies!

    Another 10 to 20 years and the baby boomer influence will start waning and the next generation can get on with making a better world.

    We’re still living the repercussions of world war two!

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    What would interest rates be, and what would economic activity be, if the Government monopoly wasn’t sucking Trillions of dollars from the fuel tank of job creating investment capital?
    Keynes was an Idiot. He originated the “Broken Window Fallacy”. Government spending is always a cost to the economy, whether from taxes, higher interest rates, or crowding aside private borrowing.
    Reduce the burden of the Government Monopoly, and the economy will begin growing again, reduce the burden alot, and the economy will THRIVE!

  • John J

    [remarks expressing strength of commenter’s disagreements with Wigwag redacted]
    In truth, we should have had this little “adjustment” in 1980, but Reagan and Bill Gates gave us some more time. People who produce nothing cannot have everything. Yet, today, all the people who somehow can never, ever get a pay cut, and who retire at 50, all never actually produced one single, useful thing. Indeed, they mostly did everything in their power to destroy production. That money that they waste comes from somewhere, and it’s all the rest, the producers, who have less and less to show for being mooks, working hard, and trying to just get along.
    This is the result of FDR and LBJ, neither of whom ever did anything actually useful. Trust babies and schoolteachers cannot an economy make. It has taken this long to break down the strong horse, but he’s weak in the knees, and foaming at the mouth, and O’Bumbles wants to bleed another 3 pints off.
    Good luck with that.
    He who works, eats. It’s the Law of the Jungle. I won’t really have a problem with that. I know how to do things, like survive, and build. But, after the last 50 years, if you try to take mine, you’d better be armed. Bye, bye, Harvard idiots.

  • Peter

    Amen to that, John.

    And the day will come when the parasites are told in no uncertain terms that they don’t get to vote.

  • http://www.gasproductiontech.com Muhammad Aruna

    America has always risen to challenges. I believe she can do so again this time. We need to reinvent ourselves. I am hopeful.

  • jukin

    The good news, at least for Americans, is that we are going to bail out the failed far left socialist policies that the donks love so much.

    Makes you feel good.

    Buy guns, ammo, and canned goods. Short everything else.

  • M. Report

    There is no political solution to an economic problem; The only thing the
    Pols can do is take their grubby,
    greedy hands off the wheel and let
    all the productive forces work, free
    of government regulation and control.

  • Anthony

    WRM, upon further thought I think what you are describing is a global economic (banking/financial/sovereign debt crisis) system cracking and without serious steps taken world-wide to ascertain both causes and remedies; equally,I think proposed solutions must entail recognizing contributions of both science and technology (without which modern capitalism cannot function….) to intrinsic capitalist turmoil as system presently constituted. Serious problems require both serious men and committed institutions – world has serious politico-economic problems as inferred in Panic.

  • WigWag

    According to Dan (9/22 at 5:24 pm), “the Fed sets interest rates and like the rest of Washington, is kicking the can down the road…”

    According to Pete Dellas (9/22 at 5:33 pm)”…interest rates are being kept ARTIFICIALLY low…”

    Unfortunately, both of these commentators are misinformed. While the Fed can be influential across the yield curve especially in controlling the short end, the free market has the last word on the cost of money.

    It is true that the Fed has recently announced a decision to swap its holdings of short term government debt for long term debt (which should have the effect of pushing yields on ten year notes down still further), but the ten year yield has been dropping like a rock long before the Fed announced this decision. The 40 year average yield for the ten year note is 7.3 percent; exactly a year ago it was 2.8 percent. It closed today at 1.72 percent and all indications are that it will fall still further. This precipitous fall has little to do with the government and everything to do with the market.

    Rates are falling because both domestic and foreign investors are literally desperate to buy U.S. government debt and as they compete against each other to acquire that debt, the rate that these notes pay keeps going down.

    The same thing is true across the yield curve. Even with virtually no return at all, investors are flocking to buy two year treasuries. Today, the rate where supply and demand intersect for these instruments is .2 percent; perhaps tomorrow, investors will actually pay the government for being the custodian of their savings.

    No one is forcing the Chinese or anyone else to buy debt instruments issued by the United States Government especially at rock bottom prices; after all, when Europe went begging to the Chinese last week to lend the continent’s laggards a hand, the Chinese laughed in their faces (politely, of course).

    One can rest assured that if Chinese investors or anyone else felt there was the remotest possibility of default or that significant inflation threatened to eat away at the value of their investment, they would be far more reluctant to invest in debt issued by the United States and interest rates would need to be substantially higher to attract purchasers.

    It’s hilarious really; those on the right love to trumpet the infallibility of markets. Well the market has spoken and its message is unambiguous. What the market is saying is that when it comes to the United States:

    1) The threat of default is zero.

    2) U.S. debt levels are far from unsustainable.

    3) The size of the current U.S. fiscal deficit has no bearing on the fiscal solvency of the United States.

    4) There is no inflationary pressure and there is unlikely to be inflationary pressure any time in the near future.

    5) The recent debt downgrade by Standard and Poor’s makes the rating agency look more ridiculous that it already did.

    6) The bluster of Congressional Republicans about the debt ceiling was precisely that; bluster.

    7) The United States dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency far into the future.

    8) Debt instruments of the United States Government are far and away the safest investment in the world.

    Every single scenario for inflation and insolvency advocated by the clueless editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, dim witted Congressional Republicans, uninformed Tea Party members and conservatives who refuse to allow data to stand in the way of ideology, has been proven to be wrong.

    The theories of Keynes and his intellectual progeny have been proven correct; most importantly that nations locked in a liquidity trap don’t experience inflation.

    Krugman called this exactly right more than a year ago. His critics owe him an apology.

    He was right; they weren’t.

  • tl

    Wig Wag’s misconceptions are too deep & wide to be addressed in a single post (or even a book). But as a courtesy, I would direct him to a relevant thought expressed by Megan McArdle. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/is-irish-austerity-paying-dividends/245522/

  • Max LeCompte

    Dr. Mead is utterly correct about the news coverage. The analogy to political horse-race speculation the day after Pearl Harbor is perfect.

    The major outlets for news in America have disgraced themselves. Why? It’s cheap and easy to talk about politics. It’s damned difficult to carefully analyze policy alternatives.

  • Luke Lea

    “More to the point, we need policy discussions more than we need political ones.”

    Very well. Here’s one that took place earlier today over at Bloggingheads.tv. The topic was “Good Jobs vs. Bad Jobs” with the ever gracious Katherine Mangu-Ward on the right and Erica Grieder on the left. A commenter, BornAgainDemocrat, wrote the following:

    “As any good economist will tell you, the issue is always about wages not jobs. If, and when, wages go down, the volume of employment will go up. Now the volume of employment, strictly speaking, is measured in man-hours per week, not in the number of “jobs,” even though conventionally, since the days of the New Deal, Americans think of 40 hours of payed work per week as a standard full-time job

    It used to be much higher, by the way: ten- and twelve hour days six days a week; and before that, in the earliest days of the factory system, when orphans as young as eight were whipped through the streets of London at dawn and forced to work 14 hours a day six and a half days a week. Stuff like this still happens in underdeveloped countries like India and China, with whom we trade and therefore with whom American workers are now forced to indirectly compete.

    So what our national conversation should be about right now is not jobs per se but the trade-off between real hourly wages and the total volume of employment. I can assure you these are the terms in which Ben Bernanke is thinking, as are a growing body of mainstream economists. They correctly understand our situation: wages in the United States are currently too high to sustain full-employment, i.e., to provide opportunities to work for all our citizens who want and need to support themselves and their dependents.

    This is not because American wages have gone up in recent years. They have been falling steadily for decades. Rather it is because American workers’ wages have failed to fall far and fast enough to compete in the new global economy of free trade and mass immigration with with populous, low-wage countries like China and Mexico. These trade and immigration policies, it should be noted, got started during the first Bush and Clinton administrations and are now strenuously supported by the governing elites in both political parties, Democrats and Republicans alike (see yesterdays WSJ on e-verify for instance). Our economic elites have ordained them as that which is best for the American economy “as a whole” (by which they mean their share of the whole).

    What happens next is entirely predictable. The money supply will expand greatly over the next several years (under QE 3, 4, and 5!), which will cause money wages to rise (hooray!) but not as fast as the prices of everything else (boo!). Thus, as if by magic, real wages will fall further in America even as money wages expand and the total volume of employment in America goes up, perhaps dramatically so if and when it takes more than two jobs to support a family. The headlines will read, “Rate of Unemployment Falls.”

    Now American workers are going to accept these changes in part because they have no choice. But they will also accept them because they will be beguiled by the “money illusion” as economists call it: so long as their bosses don’t “announce” actual wage cuts (which of course they won’t because they don’t have to) the poor ignorant slobs will barely notice that their real hourly take home pay along with their standard of living is gradually being eaten away and will continue to be eaten away unless and until the day finally arrives when our governing elites are forced to abandon the treasonous trade and immigration policies which they have foisted upon the American people.

    And that, my fellow Americans, is just the way it is. Enjoy the future and pray for your children.”

    To which a commenter named badhatharry enquired: “Since you have obviously been looking at the big picture, can you tell me how you think working women have affected the American economy since women were expected to work full time for their whole lives, say since the mid- 1960’s?”

    BornAgainDemocrat answered thus:

    “Good question. America’s wage decline began in the early 1970’s, which is when American housewives started entering the labor market in large numbers. As a simple matter of supply and demand, this was obviously a major contributing factor, the most important factor in my opinion, and it obviously had nothing to do with trade and immigration.

    Thus you have put your finger on the third factor driving American wages down: labor-saving machinery (or “changing technology” as economists like to phrase it), in this case the massive introduction of modern household appliances into the American home in the decades after WWII. I would say that this was probably the biggest example of that kind of thing since the introduction of the tractor, combines, and other labor-saving machinery in agriculture in the 19th century.

    But in both cases these changes have largely run their course. The process of automation continues of course, but mostly in industry nowadays — computerized machine tools, scanners, etc. — but nothing on the scale of what happened in the home. So, yes, it is not just trade and immigration. Trade and immigration are unique only because they were the result of deliberate policy decisions taken in Washington and are therefore reversible. We could restore tariffs on low-wage imports (reverse Nafta and Gatt), we could have an immigration pause or time-out, thus reversing the 1965 Immigration Act, and we could enforce our existing immigration laws with e-verify.

    Let me also note that trade played a part, though a lesser part, in what happened in the 1970’s. Those were the days when imports from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore — the little Asian tigers — first became noticable. In the case of Japan Reagan actually threatened to impose tariffs unless they started building their cars here in the U.S.A., which they promptly proceeded to do. They may now own the American automobile industry, but that is ok: this is about employment and wages, not who owns the factories.

    In any case keep in mind that China is ten times bigger and poorer than all the Asian tigers plus Japan put together. Thus the “deindustrilization of America” which these smaller countries began will be magnified many times over. If we let it happen, it will wipe the better part of our entire industrial base, which is already a shrunken image of what it used to be.

    Likewise with immigration from Mexico, which is now completely out of control and amounts to a demographic invasion. Look at what has happened to Texas and California. Is that what we want to happen throughout the United States? The politicians and businessmen like it, but it is not so good for everybody else. California, in particular, as gone from number one in public education to number 49, and can no longer pay its bills.

    I would argue for an across-the-board moratorium on immigration, from all countries, until we can return our wages and standard of living to what they used to be as well as assimilate and integrated the 30-to-40 million immigrants we already have. Something similar was done between 1920 and 1965. It could be done again.”

  • jvinat

    What we have now is “controlled competition”, how is that for an oxymoron.

    In essence we don’t have competition at all. There really isn’t a free market. And a handful of administrators, regardless of brilliant they think are, can not outthink a free market.

    Government and central banks should be like referees, making sure no one is cheating (and they can’t even do that). Once the referee starts playing the game, the game becomes tainted.

    When they try to control outcomes all you get is unnatural results.

    I would love to place all the blame on the politicians, the media, and the bureaucrats, but I can’t. Certainly they’re part of the problem, but they can only abuse the powers they have been given (i.e. the freedoms we have surrendered).

    We loose sight of the fact that power corrupts, and that the only mechanism to control this corruption is irrelevance. The less power granted; the less impact of the corruption.

    Right now our biggest problem, bar none, is the ever increasing size and scope of the federal government. Make sure you vote for those individuals in favor of reducing government. That should be the focal point.

    With about 50% of the people dependent on government it won’t be easy, but for the freedom of generations to come, we must.

    We are the only ones that can fix this, and it can be done, as long as we all pitch in.

  • Scott

    “WigWag says:
    September 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm
    What makes the current economic crisis overwhelmingly sad is that it is a man-made phenomenon that was both preventable and is still curable … etc. etc. etc. ”

    The Dems were in control of both houses and the administration when Obama came to power. They have prescribed the economic policies WigWag et al blindly follow, as has Europe for the last thirty years. Where are we now? Up the creek. Without a paddle.

    Can’t be bothered with the rest of WigWag’s post. Nothing short of catastrophe would make him doubt. Then again, he’d probably rationalise it as does Obama.

  • john werneken

    Gee why not publish my email addy, my physical addy as well lol. Suits me either way.

    WSM and John J are RIGHT; WW is WRONG; BornAgainDemocrat got the cause down but not the solution. WSM and Orson and Jukin have the SOLUTIONS.

  • Pete Dellas

    Mr. Wag:

    US inflation is running at an annualized rate of 3.8%:

    http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/us-inflation-rises-3-8-on-12-month-basis-consumer-prices-advance-0-4-in-august-2011/1000911/

    The 10 year bond is at 1.75%. The Chinese are propping up their yuan by backing it with a trillion dollars in US treasuries–it is PEGGED to the dollar. It is (to some extent) in BOTH of our interest that they do that.

    Until you can explain this difference in inflation vs the 10 year apart from monetary mechanisms, it is game over. Or, perhaps this is just something that you haven’t considered without your liberal specs on?

  • Pete Dellas

    PS. Mr. Wag:

    The Fed is buying the vast majority of 10 year bonds. Just check their balance sheet. The “twist” strategy is just a way to keep the long end of the curve low in an effort to disincentivize banks from holding long bonds as a risk-free strategy to produce income rather than lending money in mortgages.

    Please stop using the pat answers and instead think outside of your box. It is obvious you are a well read man. But knowledge leads to understanding which should become wisdom. Don’t resist it.

  • MKS

    Keynes correct? Krugman prescient? Unbelievable.

    Krugman’s predictions of continued disaster have somewhat held because we have never abandoned the Keynesian model. Reagan, the Bushes, and the 1995-2006 Republican Congresses made some vague motions in that direction, but never were able to purge Mr. Keynes.

    It’s time that not only the U.S., but also Western Europe, tried significantly less John M. Keynes/Paul Krugman and more Adam Smith/F.A. Hayek.

    A New World Order, with seasoned leaders “guiding” the world economy, is the last thing we need – let’s try a little Economic Freedom for a change.

  • WigWag

    As I mentioned in one of my earlier comments (@WigWag;9/22 at 9:40 pm), what makes the howling of right wingers and Tea Party acolytes so entertaining is that despite the fact that they espouse reverence for the free market, when the unambiguous message from that market contradicts their deepest beliefs and prejudices, they respond by averting their eyes. In short, they are unwilling to let the facts get in the way of their superstitions.

    In fairness, there are a small number of commentators on the right who still possess enough intellectual honesty to admit that their cherished beliefs have turned out to be wrong; one such commentator is David Frum.

    Frum himself is an interesting character; he’s a long time conservative operative who worked for George W. Bush. Most famously, he coined the phrase “axis of evil.” But Frum is also an iconoclast and his fellow right wing ideologues don’t tolerate any deviation from the party line lying down. That’s why Frum was fired from the American Enterprise Institute.

    Frum, who now has his own very entertaining blog (Professor Mead should add it to his blog roll) was honest enough to admit this past summer that the facts have validated Paul Krugman’s analysis and contradicted the analysis provided by conservatives such as himself.

    Here’s what Frum said in his post entitled, “Were our Enemies Right?”

    “Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”

    The whole post can be read here,

    http://www.frumforum.com/were-our-enemies-right

    Paul Krugman’s entertaining response to it can be found here,

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/wrong-and-right/

    Unfortunately, Frum’s honesty has failed to permeate the impenetrable boundaries of the fact-free world that the right has constructed for itself.

    The fact that inflation is near zero and that interest rates are at historic lows (approaching zero) despite the massive stimulatory behavior of the Federal Reserve should provide Krugman’s right wing critics with at least as much cognitive dissonance that David Frum is feeling.

    The fact that it isn’t tells you everything about these critics that you need to know.

  • teapartydoc

    Wig Wag can worship Keynes as much as he likes, and others can worship Einstein the way the philosphes worshiped Newton, but it may be that this tidbit of news about neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light may be a metaphor of other paradigmatic changes afoot in both “political” and “economy”.

  • Mikie21

    First Greece and then Italy will default. There is not enough euros in Europe to bail out Italy and the Eurozone goes down. The US suffers because we are financially leveraged in those countries. The housing bubble in China explodes. Meeting of all finance ministers of all countries takes place, where they decide to print more worthless money. Inflation goes through the roof and we are paying $5 for a loaf of bread.

    Basic problem is debt. Everyone has too much of it with no apparent way of paying it back.

    The chickens have come home to roost.

  • Luke Lea

    In WigWag’s defense I’ll say this: he almost always knows what he is talking about when it comes to contemporary domestic affairs. You may not agree with him (though I usually do) but to assume he’s got his facts wrong just because they don’t agree with standard right-wing talking points is a mistake.

  • msouth

    For anyone still taken in by WigWag’s rigorous re-application of Keynesian Kool-aid, I just want to say that the “free market” that he’s referring to has an entity that the government allows to print money to buy bonds. Yes, when the presses run at the Fed you can suppress the interest rates–in a free market, there would be no bottomless pit like that. But another competing issue is desperation as people start to see things really going to pieces. They don’t know what to do, and the run to Treasuries because of the depth and traditional safety. So, there is also some irrationality keeping the yields down, something that shows you how strong the consensus/desperation is.

    China has started to wise up–they’ve seen it, but they are so wrapped up in it that they know they have to tread carefully or they could trigger the collapse before they have figured out how to exit. But they have already started signaling their intent to stop accumulating debt.

    There is no law making America the reserve currency. We had the biggest economy and the most *perceived* stability and people were comfortable using the dollar as the reserve for those reasons. All of this rests on perception, though, and the thing about perception is that it can change overnight.

    Krugman may well appear to be correct as long as governments around the world are also acting according to the theory that he espouses. But remember that people used to say “house prices always go up”, which is true, until they don’t. But their modeling and investing was based on that idea, and when it burst it burst hard.

    The low yields are really based on the idea that America will never default, or run out of people to tax to pay for those bonds, or whatever. That has been true for a long, long time (if you ignore the mini-default of Nixon), longer than most people bother thinking about or consider relevant.

    When this collapses, no doubt Krugman will tell us “see? you didn’t spend enough when I told you to”. :)

    You can’t argue it down when they believe it religiously like that.

  • Old Chemist

    Hey WigWag,

    RE: Krugman “…..everything he has said about the current crisis has turned out to be prescient…..”
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

    How are all those green jobs going?

  • WigWag

    “US inflation is running at an annualized rate of 3.8%…”( Pete Dellas; 9/23 at 7:33 am)

    That’s correct, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. But 3.8 percent is hardly the hyperinflation that we were told to expect by the “sky-is-falling” crowd is it?

    In fact, measured by CPI, the average annual inflation rate over the past 50 years is 4.1%. 68.2% (+/- 1 SD) of the data falls within the range of 1.21% to 7.01%. 95.4% (+/- 2 SD) of the data falls within the range of -1.69% to 9.91%

    After the fall of Lehman brothers in 2008, the Federal Reserve, under Chairman Bernanke, began the most massive effort to stimulate economic expansion using monetary policy in U.S. history. The effort has been continuous, unrelenting and imaginative; even if only partially effective.

    Lehman declared bankruptcy on September 15, 2008. Despite the massive increase in the money supply during this three year period, interest rates are at all time lows and the inflation rate still hasn’t crept as high as its 50 year average.

    If this is the hyperinflation that Krugman’s critics were whining about, it’s no wonder that they look ridiculous.

    As for your suggestion that the purchase by the Fed of treasury debt helps drive demand which keeps interest rates low, this is self evident but only at the short end of the yield curve. With the new “twist” policy not even in effect yet, private and sovereign (foreign) purchasers are so anxious to hold American debt instruments that they have bid the yields lower and lower. With interest rates plummeting across the yield curve there is no shortage of private investors clamoring to get in. All federal debt offerings to the public are fully or oversubsribed.

    Given the rather unlikely motivation of these investors to buy U.S. debt because they are anxious to lose their money through default or see their principle significantly eroded by inflation, the only rational explanation is that they see buying short term and long term U.S. debt instruments as the safest and most reasonable investment option available.

    The market has voted with its feet and with its money. The conclusion is inevitable; the cherished market, whose virtues conservatives love to extol, has decided that neither default nor hyperinflation is a threat. To be more specific, the market has concluded that neither the recent fiscal stimulus package enacted shortly after the election of Obama (or the accompanying massive increase in federal debt) nor the expansionist monetary policy of the Federal Reserve increases the liklihood of either inflation or default.

    It’s actually quite simple; it’s not only yours truly who agrees with Krugman, the market agrees with Krugman.

    Isn’t it the mantra of economic conservatives and their Tea Party allies that the market is never wrong?

  • boqueronman

    “I still hope the old house can weather one more storm…” Har, har! Sorry to pass along the bad news, but the “old house” of which you speak, by which I assume you mean the Corporatist/Special Interest State model based on redistribution of income from the productive to the idle, is mathematically a “dead man walking.”

    Profound structural changes are coming to society e.g. massive credit deleveraging and the passing of the Boomer demographic into unproductive retirement. The transformation can either be orderly – under managed credit write-downs, reduced malinvestment subsidization, and, finally, a realization the Founders were write and a limited mandate for government is essential. Or, frankly the most likely outcome, we can have a disorderly decline as key private and public institutions focus even more on their own survival rather than seeking to discover and pursue the common good.

    The problem is that the voting public is still largely ignorant of the iceberg the good ship of state is steaming toward. For this reason, our political class will continue accusing and finger pointing rather the building consensus plans of action. I hope we are not seeing a reflection of 1911 – global nihilism, feckless leadership, and failed ideologies and academic theories. Well, good luck to us all.

  • MarkE

    Disagree with Wig-wag. Recessions are necessary. Keynesianism may delay the day of reckoning but by so doing the corrective pain is much larger. We are human. As individuals if we take too much risk we go bankrupt. As societies if we take too much we have a risk depression. We have gone so long without a serious correction all of the major markets are paying for their recklessness at the same time. In the US it was the housing scam and financial scams ammplified by the repeal of Glass Steagle Act. In Europe it was the really really excessive social programs and the careless financial structuring of the Euromart. In China it was the contruction/realestate bubble and the gaming of the exchange rate.

    When the destruction of all these scams has finally subsided the people, the natural resources, and the infrastructure will still be there. We will all have more reasonable expectations, be more prudent, and get back to work on the next chapter of world history.

  • Craig Purcell

    Maybe we should decide to enjoy our time on earth and not strive quite so hard and use debt as a substitute for enjoying the present.

  • Pete Dellas

    Mr. Wag,

    are you just trying to cherry pick facts which support your distorted view of this economy? You COMPLETELY MISSED the point of why I posted that inflation is 3.8% and the 10 year bond is at 1.75% and offered a canard about hyperinflation. SO, either you aren’t understanding the issue/correlation because you don’t know how to connect the dots, or you are being disingenuous or deceitful. Which is it?

    Let me further add that real earnings relative to this Keynsian scam are falling according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/realer.nr0.htm

    All the while productivity is rising–mostly because of layoffs not being matched with lower business activity resulting in record profits.

    So, when you account for a 2.4% drop in wages YOY, and a 3.8% inflation rate, you now have the equivalent of a 6.2% drop in purchasing power for the past year.

    Are you doing to attempt to cogently justify this current monetary path? Blame George Bush? Admit you don’t fully understand the issue? Or, perhaps, repent and get “born again”?

  • Pete Dellas

    As always, I have an after thought for your consideration by way of some analysis and charts:

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/08/who-is-buying-u-s-treasuries/

    Treasuries are being bought up primarily by the Federal Reserve. Consider ESPECIALLY that demand is dropping as a percentage of issuance YET rates keep falling? Either this is from the Fed’s action, or Krugman himself must be buying them…NOT!

    In the most subtle ways, our current monetary and fiscal policies are undermining the American middle class and the working man’s purchasing power. There is a desperate need for a more reliable/stable currency and monetary policy which will (if left alone) eventually allow for wage increases to genuinely see the people lifted out of this current squeeze. That, coupled with certain government deregulation to promote industry will do far more than these hypothetical machinations of questionable theories yielding cannibalistic results.

  • Jim.

    It seems to me that it’s not that change is happening quickly; it’s that change is happening *at all* that seems to be taking our current crop of leaders by surprise here.

    Why should we have thought that the postwar politics of Europe should remain forever static?

    Why should we have thought that the world order would remain the same in the face of the industrialization of the former 3rd world?

    Why should we have thought that we could deficit-spend in good times without dire consequences in bad times?

    This is not a nightmare. The last two decades were a dream. During that dream, our potential leaders have forgotten much of what they once knew.

    WRM, you’re a historian, keep digging up the lessons of the “interesting times” in our past, and showing them to us! The decades in the land of the lotus-eaters have left us — leaders and voters alike — ill-equipped to direct the course of our future.

    What we need now is a realistic assessment of our capabilities (better than most believe), a realistic assessment of our consumption expectations (less than most believe, unless you’re willing to work longer and create more in exchange) a realistic assessment of the chances of war (higher than most believe) and peace (achievable, but not without greater preparedness for war than most are willing to expend) and a realistic assessment of the future courses most likely to guarantee those generally-agreed goods for ourselves, our posterity, and everyone we’re going to be sharing this world with.

    We need leaders that appreciate those parameters, and run with them. The real question here was framed by the great Casey Stengel:

    “Can’t anybody here play this game?!?”

    Great rewards await the peoples and leaders that learn first and learn best.

  • Tom in Orlando

    My son buys Matchbox cars. Two months ago they were $.97. Today they are $1.07. A rise of about 10%. The Gerber White Grape juice was $1.95, now $2.25. A rise of about 15%. The wife’s coffee in the last couple of months from $6.96 to $9.29, a rise of about 33%. These are simple things that have gone up rather fast and at a much higher rate than the 3.8% that was posted about earlier. They may be simple market driven anomolies or a harbinger of things to come. I fear the latter. The foundation is weak and the house may tumble down sooner rather than later. Time to buy more beans and bullets. (Which also have gone up a good bit lately!)

  • Daulat Ram

    I believe the word you are looking for is: socialism.

  • BuckemDown

    I find the “ooo ooo ooo those who work get to eat” statements from the libertarians amusing. I’d like to see if they would remain so vocal about such a dog-eat-dog attitude if they had been viciously crippled by a on-the-job accident. All that “oo-boo-boo I no wanna pay for lazy bum” rhetoric is replaced with an outstretched hand and “excuse me sir, can I have some more?”

    Hey I got a joke, what do you call a socialist? a libertarian who can’t find a job!

    inb4 “durrr I wanna shoot you commie pinko” comments from the whiny white and economically privileged.

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