I remember when Brazil was rocking and rolling. Home to oceans of sugarcane ethanol and all kinds of other natural resources it was poised for the future. Exports rapidly escalated to China. We were looking at a new day. The BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa were strutting their stuff. Where we were slowly puttering along in the post tech bubble economy (everywhere but housing it seemed) the new kids on the block were coming into their own and throwing off the years of economic dysfunction.
This is decline folks. Though it is by no means irreversible. This country has long suffered under presidents and congresses which were more interested in perpetuating a Washington centered agenda than in creating a climate for real prosperity. A little regulation here. An extra tax there. A sweetheart deal here. A war in some Middle Eastern corner we have no business in there. Each year the economy is eroded. Each year our debt increases. Each year the quality of leadership appears to decline.
I was listening to an economist the other day talking about the continued slide in the price of oil. He said that despite the lower fuel prices there did not appear to be the significant bump in consumer activity as some have predicted.
We have argued that pressure from the low price of oil, caused in large part by the Saudis, would negatively affect the American heartland where the fracking revolution had been rolling. Now recession appears to be creeping across the prairie states and into Texas,
I heard this interview this morning in the car as I drove my kids into school. Mr. Dalio makes the point that nearly everything went down last year. (With the exception of Bitcoin.) He argues that if this continues, all asset classes moving down together, we’ll be looking at a “depression.”
That’s why he thinks the Fed will turn on its heels and ease and then print.
There appears to be no way out of this thing other than to let markets correct to proper levels.
From the master Murray Rothbard.
Does one generally want to have long recessions or a short recessions? The answer seems obvious, most people would want shorter ones even if it meant a particular short recession was more acutely painful than a long one. Have the thing and then get on with life. But our fear of recessions, our fear of markets clearing, has created a culture which insists that politicians (our oh so competent politicians) “do something.” In “doing something”
This is a particularly timely piece though it was originally written in 2009.
Remember 2009? I do. Not a particularly good year.
I was recently going through the checkout line and I overheard the cashier talking to the bagger. “Man, if I could just get paid for doing nothin’. That’d be sweet.”
I looked right at the cashier who was all of 18 or so and I said that I disagreed. A really sweet job was one which provided a living while one did meaningful and enriching work. Doing nothing is boring.
Both the cashier and the bagger agreed that meaningful work was better than doing nothing.
It’s hard to overstate how important it is that despite massive, massive, intervention from the Bank of China and huge political pressure from Beijing the Chinese market continued and continues to sell off. This is the first instance of a central bank post-2008 really losing control. And this is happening in the world’s second largest economy and arguably the world’s chief engine of growth.
Caterpillar sales have been declining for over 2 years. Latin American sales have fallen off a cliff. Caterpillar makes heavy industry construction equipment. Draw your own conclusions.
It is interesting to note that the decline is not as sharp as during the “Great Recession,” it’s more stretched out and has been shallower. However it has been steady and steady declines are the thing of maturing depressions.
See, now that we know what the problems are, getting the whole Greek economic crisis thing under control should be pretty easy.
Mohamed El-Erian says the Greek “no” vote is like this scene from the classic movie Network.
In his new book, The Forgotten Depression, economic writer James Grant, editor of the prestigious Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, gives us the history of the depression of 1920-21.
It was a very deep depression, as deep as the one that succeeded in 1929. But in this case, the government did not intervene, and it was over in less than two years.
I read something somewhere which went something like this;
“Those who don’t understand interest pay it. Those who do earn it.”
This is an oversimplification but the spirit is right on the money (so to speak.) Vast swathes of the suburbs are awash in debt. It contributes greatly to the quiet (so quiet that for many it is unspoken) desperation of the American middle class. It’s pretty sad actually. Particularly when the banks lending via credit cards are getting their money at near 0% interest from the Fed.
Sweden cuts interest rates to below zero. The rest of Scandinavia looks about. Deflation looms. Ukraine fights. Greece revolts. France and Belgium are coming to terms with terrorist attacks. Obama asks for permission to widen the war in the Middle East. Russian billionaires spill into Switzerland forcing a de-peg from the euro. Russia herself writhes economic in crisis. China continues to slow. International shipping slows too.
Ghosts? We don’t believe in ghosts. But history and lessons learned or not learned is another issue.