The notes of the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve, released on Tuesday, clearly show the Fed’s next step in trying to solve the problem it has created: Quantitative Easing II, or QE2 (qualitative easing is Fed-speak for increasing the money supply). The meeting lasted more than five hours and consisted of a debate about when to start the process: now, or later.
On September 22, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (BCDC-NBER) announced that the recession (it began in December 2007) had ended in June 2009. Obviously, all of those out-of-work Americans clogging the unemployment lines and lining up at job fairs didn’t get the good news.
Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, is worried about many things. In March he worried about the future of the economy. “The important lesson,” he wrote, “is that bank regulators cannot fully or accurately forecast whether, for example, subprime mortgages will turn toxic…. A large fraction of such difficult forecasts will invariably be proved wrong…. Anticipating the onset of crisis … appears out of our forecasting reach.”
When Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the country is in trouble, many aren’t listening, partly because the media wasn’t there reporting on it, and partly because those listening can’t understand what he’s saying. Speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council on Monday, the best he could do was “There is no way around it — meeting these challenges will require … the public to make some very difficult decisions and to accept some sacrifices.”
The high-profile international-business editor of the U.K. Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, shocked and pleased readers with an apology for his past support of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, its chairman, and its policies.
It was appropriate for Meredith Whitney to title her latest 600-page report for her investment clients The Tragedy of the Commons. That title was borrowed from an article written in 1968 by Garrett Hardin and published in Science magazine, illustrating the ultimate failure of people hoping to live off the incomes of others eternally.
When Zacks Equity Research announced on Monday the failure of two more banks in the current recession, the silence was deafening. The report blamed the usual suspects: “tumbling home prices, soaring loan defaults, and a high unemployment rate continue to take their toll on such institutions.”
Remember all those jobs the stimulus law supposedly created? Well, “tens of thousands” of them, reports the New York Times, are going to vanish “within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.”
Organized labor, like the octopus of government, ignores the realities of ordinary life. America is in the midst of a depression and unemployment is a profound problem in much of our nation, particularly in those older industrialized regions which have come to be called the “Rust Belt.” Big unions, so present in American elections with money and foot soldiers, extracts its own irregular benefits and protections as the price of political support.
Despite the wave of popular anger over the ongoing recession (no, it hasn’t ended, as just about everybody outside the Beltway has figured out by now) and the enormous expansion of government debt that is sucking the private sector dry, President Obama is refusing to contemplate extension of the Bush tax cuts for America’s high earners.