Archive for December, 2010

2011 Economic Crisis: Disturbing Signs On The Horizon

December 29th, 2010 Comments off

As a new year is about to dawn,  despite (and perhaps because of) massive government and central bank intervention in advanced and major economies, worrying signs are proliferating along with the contrived optimism about a supposed rebound  in global economic growth. Among the many clouds on the horizon regarding the global economic outlook for 2011, here are three:

1. Greek sovereign debt crisis not cured by the massive Eurozone and IMF bailout. Knowledgeable observers have pointed out that mathematically, it is not possible for the Greek state to deflate its economy in line with deficit reduction commitments required under terms of the bailout package, while simultaneously engineering a miraculous return to robust economic growth at a level sufficient to service the exploding public debt. There is already word being leaked to the Greek press by government officials that after the current bailout package expires in 2013, Athens will seek to restructure its sovereign debt.

2.  Irish banking crisis far from over. After receiving a staggering level of bailout assistance from the EU and IMF to cover the country’s insolvency due to guaranteeing the obligations of Anglo Irish Bank ( along with all other banking institutions in Ireland), the Dublin authorities were forced to inject nearly $5 billion into Allied Irish Banks, another bankrupt institution. As with Greece, it seems almost a certainty that Ireland will eventually seek to restructure its public debt.

3.  China, the one ray of hope in the global economy due to massive government injections of liquidity that have led to high levels of supposed growth during the global economic crisis, is now beginning to raise interest rates in a frantic effort aimed at reining in  burgeoning levels of price inflation. This could lead to a tightening in the Chinese economy, combined with a catastrophic deflation in the Chinese real estate market. Any downturn in China will reverberate with dire impact on the overall global economy.

Other than these three items, no need to worry, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and a horde of policymakers assure us that their bouts of quantitative easing  and unprecedented levels of sovereign debt will somehow usher in a nirvana of good economic times. Unless, of course, you like I have no confidence in those who currently are the masters of our economic destiny.

Is The UK Facing A Sovereign Debt Implosion?

December 22nd, 2010 Comments off

The Conservative/Liberal Coalition now running the government in the United Kingdom began its administration with a flurry of draconian spending cuts. Under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron and its chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, this imposed austerity has been unleashed under the threat of a looming sovereign debt crisis. Social spending is being radically reduced, and the armed forces, especially the Royal Navy, are being virtually disarmed. The question therefore must be posed; will these austerity measures succeed in their stated purpose, which is removing the danger of a sovereign debt catastrophe in the UK?

There are disturbing indications beginning to accumulate that point to the steps being undertaken by Cameron and Osborne as being too late and insufficient. The UK’s Office for National Statistics has just released public spending figures for November, and they show that net public borrowing requirements increased to a record  £22.770 billion. This staggering level of deficit spending seems to show that the UK is now in a public debt trap. Even though unlike the U.S. most of its public debt is long-term, the British government has accumulated a national debt so large that even small increases in bond yields will add significantly to the need for more public borrowing, making it unlikely that even Osborne’s austerity budget will have much impact. Furthermore, these same austerity measures risk a double-dip recession in the UK, further depressing government income. All these trends point to an elevated danger of a sovereign debt implosion confronting the United Kingdom, in a timeframe that may be much sooner than many analysts would anticipate.

2011 Economic Forecast: I Predict 2011 Will Be A Bummer Of A Year Economically

December 19th, 2010 Comments off

There is an imponderable dichotomy between the economic forecasters on Wall Street and the ugly reality on Main Street. With the Dow Jones having surged more than 60% since the lows that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in the fall of 2008, there is increasing banter by Wall Street talking heads that the rally in equities reflects a logical analysis of the economic health of America and the conviction that the Great Recession is truly over and a return to robust economic growth is just around the corner. Call it the Street’s version of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s proverbial “green shoots,” laced with steroids.

That is Wall Street’s prediction of where the U.S. and global economy is headed. As for myself, I will stick with my own look into the economic future, found in my book, “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015: Recession Into Depression.” The essence of my forecast was that 2010 would give an illusory impression of an exit from the Great Recession, fueled by a massive explosion in public indebtedness, the so-called stimulus spending engaged in by most major advanced and developing economies. However, I also forecasted that unemployment would remain at historic highs; that and the rising level of public debt in many advanced economies would lead to a worsening sovereign debt crisis in 2011, culminating in a catastrophic collapse in public finances in major economies, especially the United States. This, I surmise, will transform a recession into a global depression.

So we are left with two contradictory views of the economic future, with no room in between. According to Wall Street, 2011 will be a bumper year for the global economy, with impressive levels of quarterly growth in the United States. As for myself, I believe that 2011 will be an “Anus Horibilis,” as the Romans would say during the years of decline of their empire; a truly appalling bummer of a year in terms of global economic health.


Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve and the Road To Ruin

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

It is not the “Road To Morocco” ( for those who remember the classic film with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope) but he proverbial road to ruin that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is leading the U.S. economy towards, at flank speed. Under his leadership, the last meeting of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC of 2010 confirmed the zero interest rate policy being maintained, and the policy decision to purchase $600 billion in long-term U.S. Treasury debt. This, despite claims by many punch-drunk economists that the American economy is recovering, and at a heightened pace. Give Bernanke credit for one thing; he knows the supposed economic growth is not real, but rather marginal increments painfully extracted through massive public borrowing. But his solution, in effect creating even more public stimulus, this time through monetary policy, is totally antithetical.

Supposedly, Bernanke’s stratagem is to force down long-term interest rates through his $600 billion second round of quantitative easing. However, the bond market is reacting in a manner contrary to expectations. With Europe already mired in a deep sovereign debt crisis, the prospect of a surge in now record low interest rates on U.S. sovereign debt is becoming increasingly likely, due to the Fed’s policies. Should the U.S. encounter anything remotely like the spike on bond yields currently plaguing Europe, the game is up. Not even Bernanke could print enough money to cover the ruinous implosion an increasingly likely sovereign debt crisis will have on the already fragile American economy.

Will Barack Obama Be A One-Term President Due To U.S. Economic Crisis?

December 10th, 2010 Comments off

Over that past century, only four elected U.S. presidents have failed to win a second term in office. America’s 27th president, William Taft, succumbed to an insurgent challenge from his White House predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, whose third party candidacy  doomed Taft to defeat at the hands of Woodrow Wilson. The three other single term elected presidents of the past 100 years were victims of economic crises; Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush. Gerald Ford, the unelected successor to Richard Nixon, is an anomaly in U.S.. political history, being in effect Nixon’s surrogate and taking the heat for the Watergate scandal.

Will Barack Obama be fated to join the ranks of the one-timers? Though there remain nearly two years until the next presidential election, the prognosis on Obama is becoming increasingly guarded. Absent a severe economic or political crisis, an incumbent president seeking a second term normally enjoys an unassailable advantage over his opponent. Even amid the unpopularity of the Iraq war, George W. Bush was still able to convincingly defeat his Democratic Party challenger in the 2004 presidential contest, Senator John Kerry. However, unless a miraculous economic turnaround occurs, President Obama is likely to enter the 2012 presidential campaign  with baggage which may leave him highly vulnerable to a strong challenger from the GOP.

Almost all serious economic forecasts project that America will still be experiencing historically high levels of unemployment in 2012. The Republican Party’s midterm election triumph, in particular regaining control of the House of Representatives, points to the acute vulnerability Obama’s reelection campaign will face. In addition, the themes that generated excitement  in 2008 for Obama’s candidacy, such as “change you can believe in,” will not be credible factors in 2012, leaving him as the incumbent forced to defend a questionable record in managing the economy, and any defensive posture is unlikely to elicit a memorable theme that will excite the Democratic Party’s base and attract independent voters, the latter category crucial for any presidential candidate. In contrast, we are already seeing convincing evidence that the GOP will have an effective grass-roots movement that is excited and motivated by the prospect of ending  the Obama presidency in 2012, as evidenced by the phenomenon of the Tea Party.

As dismal a factor as the economy is likely to be in calculating the odds of Barack Obama winning a second term, there are other elements that weaken the prospects of his winning a second term. The unending war in Afghanistan  is rapidly being transformed into Obama’s version of the Iraq debacle, with a growing proportion of the electorate losing faith in this costly overseas commitment that has become the center of gravity for Obama’s war on terror. The continuing war and perception that President Obama has compromised too easily with his Republican congressional opponents has estranged  some of his supporters within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It is not inconceivable that Obama will face a Democratic challenger when he seeks re-nomination  as the Party’s presidential candidate in 2012.  Should that happen, the odds still favor Obama being the Democratic presidential nominee in 2012, however a divisive primary battle would further weaken the 44th president’s odds of winning a second term in the White House.

Increasingly, there is talk within Democratic Party circles regarding the steep challenge and mounting obstacles Barack Obama will face in campaigning in 2012 for a second term as president. Among these doomsayers there remains one hope; that the Republican Party will nominate Sarah Palin as its presidential candidate in 2012.  Looking at Palin’s current level of high negative poll numbers, they see her as a potential gift from Saint Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes. However, as former Labor Secretary  Robert Reich pointed out in a recent blog in the Huffington Post ( “Sarah Palin’s Presidential Strategy, and the Economy She Depends On”  ), Palin may be a far more formidable challenger to Barack Obama than Democratic strategists  recognize, especially if America’s economic woes persist.

Though undoubtedly campaigning in 2008 with the noblest of intentions, it is looking increasingly likely that Barack Obama will enter the history books as not only a one-term president, but also a valiant but deeply flawed failure.

U.S. Structural Unemployment Rate Stuck at Record High

December 6th, 2010 Comments off

The latest U.S. official employment data states that fewer than 40,000 new jobs were created in November, well below the level required to cover new entries into the workforce due to natural population growth. Officially, the U.S. unemployment rate stands at 9.8%, though factoring in discouraged workers and part-time employees unable to find full-time work, the actual figure hovers near 20 percent. More alarmingly, long-term unemployment in America stands at the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Despite the dismal employment numbers, there remains among economic commentators in the United States eternal optimists who believe there are still “green shoots” pointing to an economic recovery. Some even maintain that the actual job creation numbers for November are much higher than the official numbers, despite much more voluminous contrary evidence.

In contrast with the optimists, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, is already hinting at the need for a third round of quantitative easing, after his recent unleashing of QE2, a $600 billion orgy of money-printing by the Fed. Bernanke knows that the employment situation in the U.S. is a catastrophe, meaning there can be no consumer-led recovery of the economy, that at a time when the Obama stimulus money is running out. With a second stimulus program off the table now that the Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, the Federal Reserve sees itself as the only avenue for stimulus in a desperate drive to revive job creation in America. However, to think that monetary policy can be more effective than fiscal policy in facilitating job creation seems like the last great gasp of an incorrigible fool.