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9 Signs That We May Be Living Through Another Depression

Three in 10 Americans say we’re living through another depression — are they right?
AlterNet / By Joshua Holland
June 1, 2011  |

A poll released this week found that a majority of Americans are experiencing so much anxiety over the state of the economy that they’re losing sleep, experiencing relationship issues and getting angry. Two-thirds of those polled by Newsweek and the Daily Beast even said they were “angry at God.” Pollster Douglas Schoen concluded that “reality is beginning to break down Americans’ normally optimistic attitude.”

Another poll found that three in 10 Americans believe we’re living through a depression rather than a recession.

Yet the reality that’s breaking down Americans’ sunny optimism is obscured by reports that the economy is in recovery, and has been since June 2009. That’s a technical determination that does absolutely nothing for tens of millions of people living through the worst economic pain since the 1930s.

A little-discussed aspect of this downturn is that many Americans never fully recovered from the last one before the crash hit. In 2000, before the dot-com bust, a person right in the middle of the economic pack took home $27,833 inflation-adjusted dollars, and since then, that same person has only earned more in one year – 2006 (Excel). By 2008, the median income was a thousand bucks less than it had been in 2000, and then in 2009 and 2010 we saw the largest two-year drop in wages and benefits since 1962-’63.

Depressions don’t always unfold in the same way. The bleak period following the 1929 stock market crash has come to be known as the Great Depression, but it was not the first brutal downturn to be characterized as such. Between 1873 and 1896, the big industrial powers went through what was then called the Great Depression, and has since become known as the Long Depression.

The Long Depression never reached the grinding severity of the 1930s downturn; in fact, it was actually two severe recessions that bookended a period of rapid growth in the 1880s. Today, having “lost” much of the past decade, and with the economy looking like it may well head into a second period of recession – or at best a gradual, drawn-out road to economic health – historians may well come to view this period as another kind of Long Depression.

Consider how bleak the 2000s were relative to past decades. According to the Economist, “In the years between 1940 and 1999 the number of Americans employed outside farming grew by an average of 27 percent each decade,” but the 2000s saw the employment rate actually fall by around 1 percent.

MORE HERE

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Bill Moyers Journal March 27, 2009

BILL MOYERS: As you know, earlier this week Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposed a vast expansion of government authority that would crack down hard on Wall Street’s reckless behavior.

Just in time, it seems. You could almost hear the mob in the streets of Washington as he spoke. Popular anger was beginning to evoke unhappy images among Washington elites of the French Revolution, guillotine and all.

On the Op-Ed page of Sunday’s “Washington Post” William Greider, the veteran political reporter of four decades, suggested a glass half full. He wrote that the public’s rage “has great potential for restoring a functioning democracy. Timely intervention by the people could save the country from some truly bad ideas now circulating in Washington and on Wall Street.”

Perhaps no journalist better understands the intertwining twists and turns of government and money, the collision of capitalism and democracy, than William Greider. He wrote the definitive account of the Federal Reserve system, SECRETS OF THE TEMPLE. In the spirit of Thomas Paine he produced, WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE? Followed it with, THE SOUL OF CAPITALISM. And now, COME HOME, AMERICA: THE RISE AND FALL (AND REDEEMING PROMISE) OF OUR COUNTRY.

Watch Video Here

Wall Street Trades in Political Currency

WILLIAM GREIDER: Unfortunately, Secretary Geithner, has a record- which we know about. When he was President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. And he was at the table, in many of the bailout transactions. First Bear Stearns then A.I.G. and others. And this is, again, not my opinion, but people on Wall Street talk about it all the time. He got spun around again and again by the big Wall Street players. The bailout of Bear Stearns was really about protecting J.P. Morgan Chase.

The story was told backwards in the press, basically, because it’s a story the government told that J.P. Morgan came in to buy Bear Stearns at the behest of the government. But in fact, if Bear Stearns had gone down, J.P. Morgan Chase was vulnerable itself to a wave of derivative crashing crisis. When they bailed out A.I.G., the chief executive of Goldman Sachs was in the room. Why was he in the room? Well, because he had big exposure to- through derivatives, to A.I.G. So, when they pump money into A.I.G., it sends the same dollars out and buys back these derivative contracts at par value, not even discounted, to the banks and others who hold them. Goldman Sachs gets $12 billion out of that transaction. This is another scandal waiting to surface. And I trust good, smart reporters are already on the case. And following the dollars that moved around among the leading financial institutions in ways that politicians could not have not known about it. It defies reason to think that Washington didn’t know this was happening.

BILL MOYERS: “The New York Times” on Thursday had this remarkable full page graph, based upon the excellent work of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group you’re familiar with-

WILLIAM GREIDER: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: That monitors money and politics. They said, where Wall Street trades in political currency, and if you look at this you realize that political connections may be the new currency for deal makers. Right? And it shows which of the financial elites have contributed to which elite politicians.

click to enlarge

Flashback to 1981, Ronny Raygun, and Trickle Down Economics

William Geider

The Education of David Stockman
About a similar situation during the Ronny Raygun administration where Stockman, as his finacial advisor, was spinning the numbers to boost the economy

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How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century

Holland’s new book shows how the corporate Right obscured how they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top.
September 15, 2010 |

Editor’s note: AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland’s new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland’s research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won’t read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It’s one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It’s a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.

*****

The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

Yet the meltdown was global in nature, and it’s worth noting that citizens of other wealthy countries weren’t so complacent. As the Telegraph, a British tabloid, reported, “A depression triggered in America is being played out in Europe with increasing violence, and other forms of social unrest are spreading. In Iceland, a government has fallen. Workers have marched in Zaragoza, as Spanish unemployment heads toward 20 percent. There have been riots and bloodshed in Greece, protests in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The police have suppressed public discontent in Russia.” Another British paper, the Guardian, reported scenes of “Burned-out cars, masked youths, smashed shop windows and more than a million striking workers” in France. French officials went so far as to delay the release of unemployment data, “apparently for fear of inflaming the protests.”

You might wonder why Americans are so docile compared to others in the face of such a brutal economic onslaught by a small and entitled elite. Any number of theories have been offered to explain the apparent disconnect. Thomas Frank argued eloquently in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? that wedge social issues—“God, guns and gays”—that the American Right nurtures with such care, obscure the fundamental differences between rich and poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised. Class consciousness, common to other liberal democracies, has been trumped by social anxieties, according to Frank.

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The Third Depression

THE NEW YORK TIMES- By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: June 27, 2010

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.

It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

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Well, there just isn’t much good news out here on the fringes of the blogosphere lately, so I find myself looking at a Fox News video. This because they are supposed to be interviewing Dennis Kucinich, one of the last sane politicians on the planet. Along with Rick Sanitarium, a corporate spokesman, who should seriously seek psychiatric counseling.

Just sayin, I’ve already heard about the party crashers from my friend over on the coast. Anyways, further into the video, Dennis Kucinich gets a few words in edgewise. I tell ya what…If this country was a Democracy instead of a Corporation, this man could be president and if pigs had wings we would have plenty of compost for our victory gardens.

Hat tip to GEF (globalevildoerfighter) for the correct spelling of Santorum

This from George:


Hello y’all

Senior moments now greatly out number the bad hair days, so I can be certain of nothing. But if memory serves me right (and I am not implying that it always does) I recently ran into this couple down in Yachatz. They were sipping Bushmilk and weeping. Seems like these stylish synchophants got their feelings hurt. How would you feel?

“Not on the guest list ” and “uninvited” to an event you knew was just the place you should be? Egos bludgeoned down into scuff marks left by hi-$ footwear, they drove West. I offered sympathy. What they needed to do I suggested was stage an extravagance all their own. maybe a big time civil war party at some fancy place. They agreed. But, since we didn’t know where the game was being played, they told me they were going to reserve nice rooms in both Corvallis and Eugene so they’d be sure to see the Ducks & Beavers on TV.

If you’d like to attend this party, call the best hotels in the appropriate citys and ask for their room #. Your name will be on the list, for real, George.

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Robert Scheer | Truthdig | June 3, 2009

The three wise monkeys?

The three wise monkeys?

How could Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of generally excellent columns in The New York Times, get it so wrong? His column last Sunday—“Reagan Did It”—which stated that “the prime villains behind the mess we’re in were Reagan and his circle of advisers,” is perverse in shifting blame from the obvious villains closer at hand.

It is disingenuous to ignore the fact that the derivatives scams at the heart of the economic meltdown didn’t exist in President Reagan’s time. The huge expansion in collateralized mortgage and other debt, the bubble that burst, was the direct result of enabling deregulatory legislation pushed through during the Clinton years.

Ronald Reagan’s signing off on legislation easing mortgage requirements back in 1982 pales in comparison to the damage wrought 15 years later by a cabal of powerful Democrats and Republicans who enabled the wave of newfangled financial gimmicks that resulted in the economic collapse.

Reagan didn’t do it, but Clinton-era Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, now a top economic adviser in the Obama White House, did. They, along with then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and Republican congressional leaders James Leach and Phil Gramm, blocked any effective regulation of the over-the-counter derivatives that turned into the toxic assets now being paid for with tax dollars.

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Well, as you probably already know, Fox News makes me feel like losing my groceries, but I had to show this video attack on Congressman Alan Grayson. This repulsive dude, Neil Cavuto, is attempting to take on the appearance of authority to trick him into giving him an absolute number on an argument that doesn’t really call for anything but a relative example.

What Alan is dealing with here is known as The “Cavuto mark”. Following a satirical segment proposing it on The Daily Show on September 13, 2006, the word “Cavuto” is sometimes used to refer to a question mark “used to turn any statement, no matter how outrageous, into a simple, seemingly fair, question.”

Barney Frank: “This is presumably a psychological disorder”

Huffington Post

April fools day, 2009

House Republicans did their best Wednesday to battle Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on the House floor and wound up on the receiving end of some classic Frank jabs.

The bill at issue, authored by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), would cap executive compensation at bailed-out financial institutions and it puts the GOP in a tough spot: after expressing outrage over the AIG bonuses, it’s tough to vote against the bill.

In announcing their opposition, Republicans such as Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) took to the floor to decry the fact that the stimulus allowed the bonus payments to be made. They excoriated Democrats for not reading the full stimulus bill but said they objected to the bill on the floor that would fix the loophole that had been in the stimulus.

Frank had a field day with it.

“This is really extraordinary,” he said. “What you have just heard is a denunciation of something the Congress did a few weeks ago and a refusal to undo it. I’ve never seen people, Mr. Chairman, so attached to something they hate. This is presumably a psychological disorder which I am not equipped to diagnose. The objection of the gentleman from Texas was that when the recovery bill was passed, it was passed too quickly [and it] included a provision that shouldn’t have been in there. This bill takes it out.”

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by Geezer Power


Mr. Obama mentions “The Department of Agriculture will close a loophole to prevent diseased cows from entering the food supply And, the government will invest in the FDA to substantially increase the number of food inspectors and modernize food safety labs”. He also mentions “Americans can trust that there is a strong system in place to ensure that the medications we give our children will help them get better, not make them sick; and that a family dinner won’t end in a trip to the doctor’s office”. Also worthy of mention is “In 2006, it was contaminated spinach. In 2008, it was salmonella in peppers and possibly tomatoes. And just this year, bad peanut products led to hundreds of illnesses and cost nine people their lives”.

In keeping with the open and transparent objectives of our new administration, “Change We Can Believe In”, we would be remiss if we didn’t question the viability of the large agricultural corportions and their detrimental effects on our food supply. The use of genetically engineered crops, the use of hormones in animal food supplies, along with the use of antibiotics is reaching proportions that will effectively put the worlds food supply in peril. Recent legislation that is now before congress will stifle any efforts to promote natural and organic methods of food production.

For you senior readers, out there on the tubes, you probably remember that the government promoted the Victory Garden” to help the war effort. We didn’t have any genes, hormones, or herbicides, at that time and home gardens produced one third of the food for the country at that time. I might mention that water didn’t cost much in those days, and was pretty much taken for granted, like…if you were thirsty you drank from the garden hose.

Keep in mind folks, that HR875, which if passed means that organic gardening methods and crops will be controlled by the Food Police. This legislation, now before congress, heavily influenced by lobbyists from huge food producers is so broad based that technically someone with a little backyard garden could get fined and have their property siezed.

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American Free Press

March 6. 2009

The Bank of England’s extraordinary decision to create £75 billion to fight the credit crisis has won praise among the press as a bold, if risky move.

~$~


Risky indeed folks. After repeatedly slashing the prime lending rate to a near zero now they are going to be buying more government bonds so they can increase the money supply by increasing debt. This is much like the the US government is doing, except that the UK is admitting that they are printing the money. How can we believe that Helicopter Ben is not doing the same?

75 billion = 675 billion available for lending and then portions get deposited etc…..

“Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.”
Sir Josiah Stamp, Director of the Bank of England (appointed 1928). Reputed to be the 2nd wealthiest man in England at that time.

VIDEO

Let me issue and control a nation’s money, and I care not who writes its laws, — Mayer Rothschild (1743-1812)

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Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, has urged the United States to “seize the moment” and lead the world out of recession in a speech to Congress in Washington.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Photo: AP

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Photo: AP

Mr Brown called for the same determination that saw the US drag itself out of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But the Prime Minister also issued two strong messages and said America needed to reduce pollution and reject protectionism for the global economy to revive.

In a speech to a joint session of Congress, the Mr Brown said it was unusual for a British Prime Minister to address American legislators outside a time of war.

He said: “I come now to talk of new and different battles we must fight together, to speak of a global economy in crisis and a planet imperilled.”

Mr Brown made a plea for America not to slip into protectionism. He said that “an economic hurricane has swept the world.”

He added: “So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one? No. We should have confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us.” (more…)

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