Fri Mar 7th, 2008 at 04:24:04 AM EST
Here's one for the numerologists... oops, i meant economists...
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Behind all the blather and bullshit about the Federal Reserve's rescue gambits and the machinations of the ratings agencies, and the wiles of foreign sovereign wealth, and the incomprehensible mysteries of markets, and the various weather forecasts of a gathering "recession" is the simple fact that the USA is a way poorer nation than we imagined ourselves to be six months ago. The American economy has been running on the fumes of "creatively engineered" finance (i.e. new-and-improved swindling) for years, and now these swindles are unraveling. In their aftermath, they leave empty wallets, drained bank accounts, plundered retirements funds, boiled away capital reserves, worthless stocks, bankrupt companies, vandalized housing tracts, ruined families, and Wall Street executives who are still pulling down multimillion-dollar pay packages despite running their companies into the ground.
More below the fold...
... We're burning down the house and kidding ourselves that there is a remedy for it. All the rate cuts and loans to big banks and bank-like corporate organisms, and "monoline" bond insurers, and mortgage mills amount to little more than a final desperate shell game to conceal the radioactive pea of aggregate loss. The losses are everywhere, and when you add up seven billion here and eleven billion there they probably amount to something like a trillion dollars in sheer capital evaporation -- not counting the abstract "positions" that the capital was leveraged onto by the playerz and boyz who mistook algorithms for productive activity.
The shell game may run a few more weeks but personally I believe the timbers are burning. The losses are no longer "contained" or concealable. A consensus has now formed that we're in for a "recession." The idea is that, yes, this seems to be the low arc of the business cycle. Fewer Hamptons villas will be redecorated in the interim. We'll gird our loins and get through the bad weather and when the sun shines again, we'll be ready with new algorithms for new sport-with-capital.
Uh-uh. Think again. This is not so much financial bad weather as financial climate change. Something is happenin' Mr Jones, and you don't know what it is, do ya? There has been too much misbehavior and it can no longer be mitigated. We're not heading into a recession but a major depression, worse than the fabled trauma of the 1930s. That one occurred against the background of a society that had plenty of everything except money. Back then, we had plenty of mineral resources, lots of trained-and-regimented manpower, millions of productive family farms, factories that were practically new, and more than 90 percent left of the greatest petroleum reserve anywhere in the world. It took a world war to get all that stuff humming cooperatively again, and once it did, we devoted its productive capacity to building an empire of happy motoring leisure. (Tragic choice there.)
This new depression, which I call The Long Emergency, will play out against the background of a society that has pissed away its oil endowment, bulldozed its factories, arbitraged its productive labor, destroyed both family farms and the commercial infrastructure of main street, and trained its population to become overfed diabetic TV zombie "consumers" of other peoples' productivity, paid for by "money" they haven't earned.
There is a theory (see Nouriel Roubini's blog) that a reform process will now ensue in the financial realm, new regulation and oversight of the same old familiar activities. This too, I'm afraid, will prove to be wishful thinking. The financial system will not be reformed until it lies in smoking wreckage, and when that "re-form" happens the armature of the re-organizing society will barely resemble the one that the previous burnt-down-house was designed to dwell in. Among other things, it will not support capital enterprise at anything like the scale that we became accustomed to lately. Globalism will be over.
Globalism as we know it, certainly. On the levels of ideas, language and information we may hopefully continue to see further progress towards a global awareness of local issues, and their micro/macro interconnectedness.
kunstler's new novel looks really good.
maybe someone stateside can read it and do a review...