The “Crash of 2007-8” is underway
How Far Will the Crash Go and What Do We Do Now? Part I of III
Richard C. Cook, who worked in the Carter White House, NASA, and the Treasury Department, reveals what official statistics hide. This article appeared on website of Global Research, August 18, 2007.
by Richard C. CookThe immediate triggers are being described quite well: the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market; the vulnerability of the rest of the economy to the subprime undertow, due to the “efficiency” of the markets in spreading risk; the worldwide overextension of cheap credit; the failure of large institutional investors and Wall Street brokerages to behave responsibly; and the long-term effects of the U.S. trade and fiscal deficits which are now coming home to roost.
Amazingly, some commentators have been asking “if the monetary crisis will affect the producing economy,” and whether a recession lies ahead. In reality, the U.S. producing economy has been in a recession for the last year. This is shown most clearly by the decline in M1, the portion of the money supply immediately available to people for making purchases.
The causes of the M1 decline are two-fold. One is the weak purchasing power of American consumers, at least half of whose decently-paying manufacturing jobs have been eliminated by the outsourcing, mergers, and productivity improvements during the past two decades. The other is that while many of the U.S. corporations not connected to housing have been doing all right, their success has been tied to overseas investments and sales, such as GE and GM who are heavily invested in China.
This type of business activity props up the stock prices of these global corporations but does little for the working American. The presumption that overflow earnings from stockholders will benefit the rest of our domestic economy is the essence of “trickle-down,” supply-side economics and is part of the justification for the system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
But as Barron’s reported earlier this year, much of the profits from the global corporations are being held as retained earnings for future growth, rather than being passed on to stockholders as dividends. Because of the heavy debt load corporations carry today, they are all in a grow-or-die mode. Again, the result is deficient purchasing power which works to negate the already dubious trickle-down effect.
The recession has been masked by four factors: 1) the government’s phony GDP numbers, where the “churning” of financial transactions masquerade as production; 2) the froth on the stock market that took the Dow Jones Average (DJA) from a little over 11,000 to a record-breaking 14,000 during a one-year period that ended with the decline that began in mid-July; 3) the propensity of the American consumer, which is now ending, to continue to buy goods and services on credit, including necessities of life like health care; and 4) modest growth in low-paying service economy jobs, which also may be coming to an end.
These lesser bubbles have mirrored the big ones that are bursting as lenders lose confidence in the ability of borrowers to repay. These are the housing bubble, affecting consumers; the acquisition bubble, affecting equity funds; and the speculation bubble, affecting hedge funds.
As the house of cards comes tumbling down, the leading question on financial websites and blogs is how deep will the decline go. Will it stop at the level of the recessions of previous decades, including 2000-2002, with a decline that is reflected in the DJA of somewhere around thirty-five percent from its peak? Or will it be the “Armageddon” scenario which would take us to depression-level conditions? Of course there are multiple possibilities based on a decline somewhere between a recession and a depression that would share some of the characteristics of each.
Muddying the waters is the fact that the DJA is much less reliable as a measure of economic health today than in the past. This is because today the vast majority of financial transactions now take place within the furtive secrecy of the equity, hedge, and derivative markets. No one really knows what is going on, except that on any given day an announcement is made that another fund or company has been wiped out.
Part II: And the Fed is our pilot
Richard C. Cook, a frequent contributor to Global Research, is a retired federal analyst who worked twenty-one years with the U.S. Treasury Department. His articles have appeared on Economy in Crisis, Dissident Voice, and Atlantic Free Press. He is the author of “Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age.”.
The Trouble With Money and its Cure
Tax Policy and the Federal Budget Deficit
The Distribution of Wealth -- Some History
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?