Saturday, July 17, 2010

Every indicator

More bad news: foreclosures, unemployment, you name it.

It's starting to stack up on us. Earlier layers include the big news - recession since 2008 - and the barely made the news - real income spiral-down over the last few decades.

Back to that recession thing, and Rasmus, he points out: this recession is impressively worse by every economic indicator than every preceding recession this century - but not at depression -- yet.

Until now, recession meant GDP declined 2-4 percent for a couple quarters. This time it's 5-15%. Depressions have been much worse, but we could get there.

Until now, recession meant 10 percent unemployment or less. This time we hit 17%, including a million job losses per month from Nov. 08 to May 09. It's complicated by the fact that the government keeps changing how it calculates unemployment, but controlling for that, it seems clear that we are looking at much worse unemployment now than previous recessions. Depressions have been over 20%. And as public employers continue slashing deep, we could move that way.

Industrial production, exports, and stock markets, all worse than previous recessions. But not hitting levels we had in depressions -- yet. If you want a jolt, read this book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Epic Recession

Reading Jack Rasmus is one of those 300 Club effects. Worse, reading him over time, it now appears that he was an optimist in 2008.

Anybody who reads about the economy who also may happen to work for a living (or try to) ought to notice that Rasmus combines two types of observation that don't often coexist in the same paragraph, like matter and antimatter.

El primero is a critical and intelligent look at what other economists are saying, what they skip over, and how we can fill in the blanks. This includes people like Krugman, who's pretty smart, so pegging his blindspot lands Rasmus a sweet starting gate. Also sends up a red flag about Obama's half-uh-way fixes: color them doomed.

Maybe they'd work if we were in a regular recession, but "epic recession" isn't just a word for a "really bad" one. It's different in some fundamental ways. It's in fact more like the early stages of the d-word.

The recent economy is a house of cards (we noticed) and the Obama gang is just blu-tacking some of the cards together. Maybe it's some of the lower ones, but not even the bottom.

Then, the sin, the thoughtcrime - el secundo - Rasmus pays attention to the man behind the curtain. He must be kicked out of any economists' clubs he's in, because this is bound to designate him Skunk - at - Picnic. He says, the ultimate cause of the antisocial over-zeal for speculation over real investment, over-reliance on debt (and lots of it), und so weiter, is massive accumulation of, well, money among the Richie Riches and the (not unrelated) lack of money on the other side of town.

Funny that it comes back to that, isn't it? And particularly funny when we listen to what the rightwing is still saying about the fix for this mess: lower taxes and regulations and so on, so the rich can make more money and (hocus pocus) create jobs. Only, when they do get a lot of money (meaning a lot more), as in the last 40 years or so, they don't invest it - they play the ponies - er - market. They ... BLOW IT! And when the party's over, the debt unwinds, however you want to say it, they take the whole precarious economy down, not with them, but with their dividends, stock prices, etc. They are still fine. In fact, some of them are sitting even prettier than before - while longterm unemployment continues climbing, unemployment benefits run dry, political sympathy with it, and foreclosures hit ten times the normal rate with only more fun in sight.

Hm, what did Rasmus say this could turn into, again?