But if you go through it, you can find some good pieces to chew on. Here's the most salient point:
No. They're caught up in this Keynesian fog -- The economy is going through a disappointing recovery but if we just keep working at it, everything will work out for the better. The latest OMB and CBO forecasts show no recession through 2023. Well, the latest recession ended in June 2009. Their forecast implies that 14 years are going to go by and there aren't going to be any accidents, hiccups, and dislocations in our economy or in the world. That's nuts. It's never happened in recorded history. We're going to have recessions. There will be a crisis.This is a pretty sobering point. Although the Democratic Party and the White House in particular are keen to point out any signs of economic progress, the fact of the matter is that we are 4 years out of the recession and we still aren't back to even. Unemployment is still higher. Labor force participation is still lower. Although we're barely over the nominal highs in the Dow and S&P pre-crisis, on an inflation adjusted average, we're still about 10% below the real high.
Household wealth is still vastly lower. Americans are deleveraging but still taking on student loans (which is just about impossible to discharge in bankruptcy). Given the fact that about half of consumer debt reduction has been in the form of write-offs and charges taken by corporations, this hasn't exactly improved the overall debt picture of the average US household.
So we're out of the recession but it doesn't feel like we're out of it. The only question is, what's going to happen during the next recession? Because it's coming and, if you look at historical trends, it's probably knocking on our doorstep. Take a look at this chart:
|Source: St. Louis Fed|
Some people say it's happening in agricultural real estate, others say bonds (of all flavors, municipal in particular), and don't forget emerging market equities, the perennial price swings of the commodities trade, and consumer debt. Markets were in free fall in 2008. The next recession is probably not going to be as severe, but a weakened economy suffering another blow is the last thing we need.
The problem is we already used up most of our gunpowder. Public debt increased from 40% of GDP to 70% in 4 short years from 2007 to 2011. The Federal government is not going to be able to borrow at ultra low interest rates (unless the Fed wants to trigger some sort of rampant inflation similar to what we saw in the 70s or even worse) in the next recession.
What we saw during the financial crisis here and in Europe is that the government punted the fundamental issues down the road. Because although the acute crisis was brought up by auxiliary factors, the real issue is that our current fiscal structure cannot support the amount of government we want. At some point we will either need to cleave spending with a battleaxe or raise taxes at levels even California Democrats would balk at, or both, or experience a drastic bout of inflation that will ultimately have the same effects.
The next recession is coming. And it's gonna get ugly.