Monday, June 22, 2009

Green Shoots and Leaves? Or The "Foetid Corpse Of Reaganomics"?

To read or listen to or watch the quotidian accounts from the SCUM (SoCalledUnbiasedMedia) on the condition of the economy and the prospects for a recovery, you might believe that: 1) the economic corner had been turned, 2) the recession touted as the worst since 1930 was blunted and passing speedily, 3) unemployment was stabilizing, 4) the housing bubble was solved, and 5) the stock market was once again a vibrant engine of economic growth.

You could believe it.

But you'd be wrong. Very wrong.

The corpoRat media reporting on the crisis partakes of ALL the worst characteristics that are the hallmarks of "local" sports journalism: Boosterism, home-townism, cheer-leaderism, and uncritical adulation of local 'team,' players, coaches, etc. Josh Holland, at Alternet, has the gory details:
Amid the most painful period of economic turbulence in generations, a narrative has emerged that a handful of less-than-catastrophic economic reports represent the first "green shoots" of a healthy return to growth.

When a slew of absolutely depressing economic data were released in late May, economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote: "these reports might have led to gloomy news stories, but... the media have obviously abandoned economic reporting and instead have adopted the role of cheerleader, touting whatever good news it can find and inventing good news when none can be found."

In other words, the green shoots narrative should be met with healthy skepticism. New York University economist Nouriel Roubini -- who earned the moniker "Doctor Doom" for correctly anticipating the crash -- says that rather than "green shoots," we're seeing some "yellow weeds" emerging from the cracks of our shattered system, and argues that there's every likelihood that a "recovery" will mean several years of sluggish, below-average growth for the industrialized economies.

Most economists do agree that extraordinarily aggressive interventions by our government and those of other key countries -- whatever criticism one may have of their specifics -- have averted, for the moment, the worst-case scenario: a deflationary "death spiral" in which people don't spend, firms lay off workers and state revenues dry up just when they're needed the most, causing yet more austerity and more downsizing.

But as New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman noted, those moves "make the conventionally minded uncomfortable, and they keep pushing for a return to normalcy." And there are a variety of stakeholders that have a vested interest in creating a perception that we're "returning to normalcy." Wall Street is trying to repay the government (but without letting the taxpayers off the hook for future losses) in order to escape limits on executive pay and other watery "conditions" attached to the public's largesse (Goldman Sachs' research department has been out front in shaping the green shoots narrative). The Obama administration is fending off conservative charges that his stimulus package -- of which only a small fraction has actually been spent in the four short months since Congress approved it -- is a failure. The Fed and other institutions are anxious about foreign investors' perceptions of the U.S. economy's overall health, and economic reporters and pundits are loath to admit that they've been sleeping with the fetid corpse of a dead economic paradigm known as Reaganomics.
Economic triumphalism, in other words, is every bit as hazardous as our social "exceptionalism." "

The USer consumer supplies 70% of the whole of the US economy, and about 15% of the GLOBAL economy. There is a lot at stake in restoring the confidence of USer consumers. But if it's all smoke and mirrors, and the next "bubble" bursts (resetting all those millions of option ARMS over the next couple of years, for instance), the subsequent repudiation of the markets by consumers could well doom the whole enterprise.

The Tinkerbelle economy: "Don't Let Tinkerbelle DIE! Applaud! Clap! Believe! Believe! Ya gotta BELIEVE!!!"

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