The bulls are pointing to the end of a recession and a robust recovery ahead for the American economy. Their optimism is based on a definition of the recession, in economic terms. For economists, a recession ends when the economy ends its negative growth. These terms, however, are theoretical. In practice, a robust recovery must parallel a robust recovery at the American household level, which is unlikely to happen for a number of reasons:
- The Unemployment rate: We hear a good deal of optimism coming from economists concerning the fact that the unemployment rate is slowing, but we ought to remember that it isn’t actually going down, but continues to rise. According to the Associated Press, we are at the worst unemployment crisis since 1983 and economists are predicting the unemployment rate to peak above 10% by the middle of next year.
- State Deficits: We are suffering huge deficits at the state level which the Federal Stimulus package can not correct. This means additional job losses for state employees.
- Unemployment Insurance: Not only is America facing a dangerously high unemployment rate, but the unemployment level in this country has been high for so long that benefits are now running out. We are in a situation far worse than simply having people who are out of work; they are out of work, have few prospects for new jobs, and are receiving no income.
- Continuing Bank Failures: Despite the federal government’s intervention, we continue to see banks fail. The number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem List” (banks in danger of failing) has gone from 305 to 416 at the end of June ’09. Some analysts are afraid that the FDIC will go into the red by the end of this year.
- Continuing Credit Crunch: In these uncertain times, credit markets continue to be very tight. Because of the continuing failure of the nation’s banks, regulators and bank executive remain cautious, which means less credit availability. Companies who need to deal with debts that are coming to maturity are likely to find less opportunity to refinance. As a result, we can expect more corporate bankruptcies and more job losses.
Many economists are calling for more stimulus money by the federal government, but it is clear that what the country really needs is smarter spending. We desperately need to make investments with government funds that will deliver strong returns on the nation’s money, and thus, we believe that the federal government ought to invest in new technologies that will turn America’s trade deficits into strong surpluses. It is precisely for that reason that this is the right time for a ‘Manhattan Project’ on energy independence.