So many economists and financial pundits seem absolutely shocked that the U.S. economy is slowing down again. It is as if this latest wave of bad economic data has caught them completely by surprise. Now, in the mainstream media we are seeing all kinds of headlines declaring that the U.S. economy is headed for disaster. But anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming. This year alone, we have seen the worst tsunami in Japanese history, the worst U.S. tornado season in recent memory and the worst Mississippi River flooding in decades. In addition, chaos in the Middle East has pushed the price of oil up to very high levels. Of course all of those things were going to have an effect on the economy. In addition, all of the long-term trends that have been destroying the U.S. economy for decades have not been taken a breather. In fact, the truth is that all of our long-term economic problems have been accelerating. So yes, the sky is falling, it is time to panic and the U.S. economy really has fallen and it really can't get up. It is just that everyone in the mainstream media seems to have believed that Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama would just sprinkle a bunch of fairy dust on the economy and everything would just magically get better. Well, in the real world things simply do not work that way.
Despite an unprecedented debt binge by the federal government and nightmarish money printing by the Federal Reserve, the economic downturn continues to drag on. Andrew Barber, a strategist at Waverly Advisors in Corning, New York recently told CNN the following....
"People are starting to see that this sort of malaise is not just going to go away no matter what you do."
And "malaise" is a really good word for what we have been experiencing. For those that remember the late 1970s, what we are going through today is similar in a lot of ways.
But what is perhaps even more frightening is that 2011 is starting to look a lot like 2008 all over again.
In particular, we are starting to see some real signs of instability in the financial markets.
When Moody's downgraded Greek debt again on Wednesday all the way down to Caa1, I was only moderately alarmed. The truth is that everyone knows Greece is a basket case so a debt downgrade wasn't really all that surprising.
When Moody’s announced that it plans to review the U.S. government’s AAA debt rating "if there is no progress on increasing the statutory debt limit in coming weeks" that got the attention of a lot of people around the world, but it was not totally unexpected. Moody's is telling Congress that they better raise the debt ceiling or else. A lot more pressure will be applied to Congress before this is over.
When Moody's warned that it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, that really set off alarm bells for me.
Do you all remember what set off the financial panic in 2008?
Do the names "Bear Stearns" and "Lehman Brothers" ring a bell?
Well, right now there are some frightening indications that we may see more trouble at some "too big to fail" institutions.
But will there be any willingness to do more bailouts this time?
Right now the financial markets are closely mirroring their performance just prior to the financial collapse of 2008. One great example of this is these charts which were recently posted by the Financial Armageddon blog. It looks like bank stocks may once again be leading the way down.
Hopefully the financial system can hold together and we won't have a repeat of 2008 right now, because if it happens it is going to be really messy.
But even without a "financial collapse" we already have all of the economic problems that we can handle.
Robert Brusca, the chief economist at FAO Economics, is being quoted by CNN as saying the following....
"We've had a poor economic recovery to begin with, and now it appears to be segueing into an end."
At this point, U.S. consumer confidence is already lower than it was back in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. U.S. consumers are holding on to their money more tightly these days and that is not a good sign for an economy that is so highly dependent on consumer spending.
The latest manufacturing numbers have also been very distressing. Measures of manufacturing activity all over the world are indicating that we have now entered an economic slowdown. This is also similar to what we saw a few years ago.
We should all feel really bad for anyone that is entering the workforce right now. We are in the midst of graduation season, and the only thing that our new graduates have to look forward to is an economic crisis that never seems to end.
On a recent article entitled "Global Financial Markets Tremble As Bad Economic News Continues To Pour In" a reader named Esta left the following comment....
I feel sad for yet another year of graduates entering a horrible job market. I recently read, and I think it was in the mainstream media, that only half the 2010 college grads have found jobs of any kind, only half of those have found jobs requiring a college education, and that 85 percent of all grads moved right back in with their parents. The job growth rate is so low that we keep employing fewer and fewer people as a percentage of our adult population. Why isn’t that still a recession?
What a future our college graduates have to look forward to, eh? Moving back in with your parents, a crappy job (if you can find one) and a pile of student loan debt that will crush you financially for decades.
We are always told that "more education" is the answer, but even many of our most highly educated young people can't find jobs. In fact, it turns out that a third of last year's law school graduates aren't even practicing law....
The law school class of 2010 is making news for all the wrong reasons. The budding legal minds who managed to find employment last year have set a new record--only 68.4 percent of them are in jobs that require them to pass the bar exam, the lowest share since the Association for Legal Professionals began collecting data.
Now it looks like the economy is going to starting heading downhill once again.
What is that going to do to the job market?
Last year, only 45.4% of Americans had jobs. That was the lowest figure since 1983.
In some states it was even worse than that. In states like California, Arizona and Mississippi only about 37 percent of people had a job last year.
The economic news just seems to get worse and worse and worse. The American people have been relatively calm over the past several years as they have waited for the promised "economic recovery", but what do you think is going to happen if we have another major economic downturn and unemployment spikes back up by several more percentage points?
And what in the world can our "leaders" really do to "help" the economy if we do have a repeat of 2008?
We are already running trillion dollar deficits.
The Federal Reserve is already printing money like it is going out of style.
So what would their next moves be?
Most Americans have no idea how fragile our financial system and our economy really are.
Let us hope and pray that things can hold together for as long as possible, because when the next wave of the economic collapse happens it is going to be really, really messy.