More economic wisdom from Chris Gaffney and Chuck Butler…
Should be a busy week ahead, and I would expect for most of the data out of the US to continue to confirm a government led recovery is underway here in the US. In particular, the consumer spending and durable goods orders should show a nice uptick on the back of the cash for clunker program. But Chuck sent me a note over the weekend which questions the ‘success’ of this program. Is it really what the US economy needed? Here are Chuck’s thoughts from San Francisco:
“I was sitting here thinking about something that had flashed across the TV screen here in my room, and that is the “Cash for Clunkers” program… I blasted this program two weeks ago, and now that it’s finally done with and $3 Billion was spent to artificially boost auto sales, I will put my final thought on this… Of course I already talked about the obvious things wrong with this program. But here’s my final thought, and that is… I believe the program is going to end up hurting the most vulnerable consumers in the U.S. Middle Class buyers, traded in their “paid for” cars, and leveraged up to buy a new car, when they probably shouldn’t have done so, given the rot on the economy’s vine.
So… Once again, I’m reminded of the words that President Reagan said were the scariest words that could be spoken… “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”…
The reason I’m all over this program today like a cheap suit, is that this weekend, I heard that Big Ben Bernanke made a claim at the Jackson Hole boondoggle, that “we saved the world”… Oh, Come on Big Ben, isn’t that just a bit dramatic? Does this statement have anything to do with the fact that you are up for re-appointment in January, and you would love to have that thought of you “saving the world” on the minds of the administration?
So… In the end, we’ll see if “he saved the world”…”
I’m with Chuck on this one. It seems the US government is intent on getting consumers to go back to their borrow and spend habits. This is what created the bubbles, and the administration seems intent on creating another bubble economy. US consumers have made some historic cut backs on the amount of debt they are amassing (whether or not these cutbacks are by choice). The US government should not be encouraging these consumers to go back to their previous ways, but should instead be trying to use the funds to educate and train consumers and to encourage new and innovative companies. Use this downturn to correct some of the bad habits which we had gotten into. Yes, it will be painful, but breaking an addiction is always hard and painful. US consumers need to break our addiction to easy credit and massive debt. This recession/depression has given consumers a much needed wake up call, hopefully the administration won’t be able to push consumers back into their old habits.
I went running with my wife and her friends over the weekend (trying to take it easy on the back) and got into a discussion about the US economy. One of my wife’s friends had heard an interview on MSNBC in which an economist stated we were in a classic V shaped recovery. I let her know that I think the economist was one letter off, and that instead we will see the recovery shaped more like a W. The green shoots and recovery we are seeing right now will die out as government stimulus slows. High unemployment, a long slow housing recovery, commercial real estate woes, and rising personal bankruptcies will force the economy into another dramatic downturn. Central banks who have ‘juiced’ their economies with unlimited credit will have to decide whether to continue juicing, or pull back from the table.
Nouriel Roubini wrote a commentary in today’s Financial Times which agrees with my thoughts. Roubini said the chance of a double dip recession is increasing because of risks related to ending global monetary and fiscal stimulus. He believes the global economy still has further to fall, and will bottom out sometime during the second half of 2009. While some economies such as China, Germany, Australia, and France will likely recover; others such as the US and UK will double dip with another leg down. “There are risks associated with exit strategies from the massive monetary and fiscal easing,” Roubini wrote. “Policy makers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”
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