Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanks, Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson and Dumbya's Gangsters! Keep Talking!!!

If you're not spending all of your time thanking Alan Greenspan and the rest of the last decade's (and much longer than that - about 30 years since the Reagan tax cuts (at Greenspan's behest!) benefitting the top 1% of the population who didn't trickle anything but urine down - according to most financial indicators) economic-conspiracy tricksters, you're not really following the new (or is that New World?) guidelines. Right after the "Thanks!" and their acceptance speeches with all the new market/housing advice for increasing the wealth and well-being for the middle classes comes the election where I hear we will usher these guys right back to the decision tables. Even the New York Times finally gets it. Oh! And this is new news to over 30% of the population - who thought they were doing great except for that ridiculous government interference (don't forget to send their Social Security, Disability, Medicare and Medicaid checks on time!). Wanna job in China or India? I hear they will be hiring us (cheaply!) soon. Enjoy the Fall! (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. That has policy makers, particularly the Federal Reserve, considering a range of ever more extreme measures, as noted in the minutes of its last meeting, released Tuesday. Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there’s little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market.

Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back. The math yields somber conclusions, with implications not just for this autumn’s elections but also — barring a policy surprise or economic upturn — for 2012 as well:

At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn’t even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

Median house prices have dropped 20 percent since 2005. Given an inflation rate of about 2 percent — a common forecast — it would take 13 years for housing prices to climb back to their peak, according to Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics.

Commercial vacancies are soaring, and it could take a decade to absorb the excess in many of the largest cities. The vacancy rate, as of the end of June, stands at 21.4 percent in Phoenix, 19.7 percent in Las Vegas, 18.3 percent in Dallas/Fort Worth and 17.3 percent in Atlanta, in each case higher than last year, according to the data firm CoStar Group.

Demand is inert. Consumer confidence has tumbled as many are afraid or unable to spend. Families are still paying off — or walking away from — debt. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, estimates it will be the end of 2011 before the amount of income that households pay in interest recedes to levels seen before the run-up. Credit card delinquencies are rising.

“No wonder Americans are pessimistic and unhappy,” said Mr. Sinai. “The only way we are going to get in gear is to face up to the reality that we are entering a period of austerity.”

. . . After plummeting in 2009, the stock market has spiraled up, buoying retirement accounts and perhaps the spirits of middle-class Americans. As a measure of economic health, though, that gain is overstated.

Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, notes that the most profitable companies in the domestic stock indexes generate about 40 percent of their revenue from abroad. Few doubt the American economy remains capable of electrifying growth, but few expect that any time soon.

. . . New shocks could push the nation into another recession or deflation. “We are in a situation where our vulnerability to any new problem is great,” said Carmen M. Reinhart, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland.

So troubles ripple outward, as lost jobs, unsold houses and empty offices weigh down the economy and upend lives.

Suzan _______________

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