Government never “stimulates” economic growth. Left quite alone, people engage in rational commerce guided only by enlightened self-interest. More crucially, government cannot predict the real consequences of its efforts to stimulate the economy. Republicans around the country are telling Americans that the ocean of dollars which the federal government spent on the future credit of our children in order to stimulate growth in America is actually being spent in China.
In yet another economically destructive ploy to “go green,” the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended an unprecedented barrage of harsh federal regulations on fuel efficiency standards for semi-trucks, buses, delivery vans, garbage trucks, and heavy-duty pickup tricks.
Let us be blunt: The mortgage foreclosure crisis, which first burst into full public view with Bank of America’s suspension of all foreclosures only a few days ago, has the potential to completely destroy the American real estate sector in an epic legal and economic meltdown that would make the crisis of 2007-2008 look like the proverbial Chinese tea party.
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.”