Recession is mild

Discussion in 'Economics' started by oriol88, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. oriol88


    Policy makers and political candidates told us at the end of September that the economy was in crisis and that we likely faced a second Great Depression. Yet the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed recently that so far this recession is mild by historical standards. Nevertheless, President Obama's fear-mongering continues.

    The economic news headline on January 26, 2009 was that the annualized real G.D.P. growth rate was ‑3.8 percent in the fourth quarter. In plain English: adjusted for inflation, total spending in the United States economy was about one percent lower in October-December than it was July-September. (The fourth quarter performance would have to repeat itself three more times – for a full year – in order for real GDP to actually fall the 3.8 percent in the headline.)

    None of us likes to see our purchasing power fall, but it helps to put the one percent drop in perspective. That drop was pretty similar to what happened during the 1990 recession. Real spending has so far done much better than the 1981-82 recession, when it fell three times as much. The Great Depression of the 1930s was far worse.

    Another way to understand the headline: spending fell $120 per person.

    Normally, a small G.D.P. change is not big news – but it is today, because political leaders of both parties have grossly exaggerated the economy’s problems. October 1 began the quarter, within just a few days of Bernanke’s and Paulson’s telling President Bush “if we don’t act boldly, Mr. President, we could be in a depression greater than the Great Depression.” Then presidential-candidate Barack Obama said that “the credit market is seized up and businesses, for instance, can’t get loans to meet payroll.”

    These dire alarms were used to justify hastily giving Paulson the authority to spend $2300 per American to bail out banks. Yet they were speaking about an economy that so far has only dropped by $120 per person. Perhaps the economy has more to fall, but it doesn’t make sense to spend thousands of dollars in order to rescue a few hundred.

    The economy is hard to predict, so the alarmists might be excused for thinking that this recession was much worse than previous ones. But the January 26th report finally showed us that so far this recession is a lot like 1990’s: not a happy time, but mild by the standards of previous recessions.

    Nevertheless, Congressional Democrats and President Obama persist in sounding economic alarms to justify still more government spending. President Obama said Wednesday that the recession will become “a catastrophe” unless an economic stimulus bill soon becomes law. The proposal now is a stimulus plan costing almost $3000 per American.

    Only a few people pointed out last year that chaos for the finance industry does not necessarily mean tragedy for the economy as a whole, so that bailouts and stimulus packages are worth far less than their price tag. Now we know: the economy as a whole continued to maintain high levels of production production and spending. Although the economy should be closely watched in 2009, taxpayers would be better served if their representatives would discern hype from real disaster, and thereby better protect taxpayer wallets from the alarmists.

    Casey B. Mulligan

    Nothing more to say
  2. Anything that goes into a major tailspin over a net 1% year over year contraction must have something wrong with it.

    If we're really so leveraged that we can't take a 1% decline (which puts us back to what, a year or two? which was the record year in history at the time?) we deserve what we're getting.
  3. Gasoline and base metals are still too expensive for a recession.
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    Still declining. Anyone see anything in any data set here or elsewhere that says this is just like the 1990's? lol
  5. That's pretty silly. Has this guy looked at the unemployment rate recently?
  6. oriol88


    what I really think -I don't have necessarily the views of Mulligan- is that the US is not suffering low competitiveness.

    what happened is that the financial system had overweight and now is deleveraging, and the pessimism created by them (because they were losing their jobs, assets halved) is spreading out to the rest of the economy.

    If you want to see a real economic crisis come to Spain
  7. The data is far far worse than anything from the last 70 years -- we've had 6 quarters of declining earnings for the S&P 500 (ties with a recession in the early 50s) and Q4 2008 was the first quarter ever with an aggregate loss for the S&P 500 since the start of records (1936). (See ) If the unemployment figures look mild, it's because of changes in the methods that undercount unemployment now.

  8. If you use a 'wealth destruction' model, this downturn is brutal.

    Almost every asset class has gotten eviscerated, from equities, to real estate, commodities and...almost everything.

    The declines in valuations are purely brutal.
  9. Precisely... But even if you look at the unemployment figures, which are mild, as you suggest, due to methodology, his claim of it being better than the recessions of the 90s or the 80s is preposterous.