It was news to many when Scott Powell announced that an obscure novel published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged, “may be second to the Bible as the most influential book read in America.” His statement that BB&T, the 12th largest bank in America, which resisted taking TARP bailout funds, requires reading of that same book as part of its management training program astonished many more.
Economist Niall Ferguson of Harvard wrote an article entitled “Complexity and Collapse” for the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ferguson uses the visual image of a series of paintings by Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire, which currently hangs at the New York Historical Society, to illustrate his point that every society goes through five stages. He says that Cole “beautifully captured a theory of imperial rise and fall to which most people remain in thrall to this day.”
When Kevin Hall, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, said “the Obama administration got what it was looking for at its summit on the future of housing finance,” he was very close to the truth: No matter who spoke at the summit or what “new” ideas might be proposed, nothing would change — the government would remain fully in charge of mortgage financing for the country.
The first warning about the possible bankruptcy of the town of Vallejo, California, was reported by the Associated Press on February 28, 2008, when Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes said, “Our financial situation is getting worse every single day. No city or private person wants to declare bankruptcy, but if you’re facing insolvency, you have no choice but to seek protection.”
More tough times lie ahead, according to a report on the state of the economy just released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Unemployment is likely to remain high, not returning to 5 percent or lower until at least 2014, while this year’s budget deficit will hit $1.342 trillion, the second highest ever.
Infowars.com, the website founded by self-described “aggressive constitutionalist” Alex Jones, published an article by former Reagan Treasury Department official and co-author of Reaganomics, Paul Craig Roberts entitled “The Ecstasy of Empire.” With such an alluring title, it is little wonder that the article has attracted a volume of comments. Roberts brings to bear all the entries of his impressive resume in diagnosing the illness afflicting the American body politic, particularly the economic might that is its lifeblood.
The San Francisco Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank has found that the United States will more likely than not be dipping back into formal recession over the next two years, according to an August 9 study of nine economic indicators. Study authors Travis J. Berge and Òscar Jordà concluded that “for the period 18 to 24 months in the future, the probability of recession goes above 0.5 [50 percent], putting the odds of recession slightly above the odds of expansion.”
Item: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said not long ago that unemployment insurance is “one of the biggest stimuluses [sic] to our economy.” Fox News.com reported on July 1: “Unemployment benefits are creating jobs faster than practically any other program, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. Talking to reporters, the House speaker was defending a jobless benefits extension against those who say it gives recipients little incentive to work. By her reasoning, those checks are helping give somebody a job.”
On Wednesday, July 21, President Obama triumphantly signed the latest plank in his bid to outdo Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era radical expansion of federal government powers. While Obama’s overall program has yet to challenge the New Deal as the greatest federal power grab in U.S. history, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is certainly the most massive imposition of federal power ever inflicted on the financial sector.
When John Stossel of Fox Business Network wrote his recent “Memo to Alan Greenspan” column, he recounted many of Greenspan’s failings while Chairman of the Federal Reserve, including especially Greenspan’s relentless expansion of the money supply and lowering of interest rates that set in motion the housing bubble that burst in 2007.