Although the stimulus package is now being parceled out, the talking heads at the top of the food chain are still grumbling that something remains terribly amiss. Why isn’t the economy perking up in the same way Dorothy opened the door of her home and glided from the black-and-white burg of (Depression-era) Kansas into the Technicolor realm of Oz?
We move in a world where you can tweet or text and expect instant virtual results. However, real life still insists on functioning, oh, something like real life.
As a small consolation, we do have Munchkins — our endless talking heads — and they indeed yammer a mile-a-minute in a helium-soaked screech. But since our Munchkins are more demented than gentle, they get misty-eyed that the witch was cut down in the prime of life, and fret over who would buy a house with a damaged foundation.
February 23 was a great example of such insanity. As the stock market tumbled 250 points, the Associated Press declared the recession “had no end in sight.” There were similar doomsayers all over the television, well into the night.
Which was funny, because AP’s buddies over at CNN Money knew when the recession was going to end. CNN quoted a new survey of leading economists by the National Association of Business Economics. It concluded growth would resume by the middle of the year. And 2010 would bring a solid recovery. Only when Federal Reserve Bank Chair Ben Bernanke echoed the survey findings to Congress the following day – something the media chose to pay attention to – did the market react positively.
I guess a four or five-month wait is just too much to bear. After all, the Great Depression only lasted 12 years.
Yet that pesky stock market could still dip again, particularly if rumors that the government may take over CitiBank and/or Bank of America persist. After having their free-market disciples run their operations into the ground for a quick buck, any person who believes the federal government could do a worse job is simply delusional. Thus spake the big traders who drive the market, patriots of the highest order.
My theory was proven by Rick Santelli, CNBC commentator and classic dumbass who is perennially confused as to which job is which. The former trader whipped the pit of the Chicago Commodities Exchange into a froth by equating the stimulus package to a rip-off all the millions of hard-working people who selflessly have never asked for anything.
“Why don’t you put up a Website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages. Or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?” Santelli asked his fellow-traveling pit traders. They cheered him on just as surely as they would hawk their infant daughters on Craigslist.
Santelli is drawing a paycheck for this garbage, despite the fact that the stimulus plan has overwhelming public support.
The mainstreamers haven’t been much better.
Maureen Dowd, who traded actual analysis for snark some time ago and is apparently allergic to conducting interviews, entitled her New York Times column over the weekend “Dark, Dark, Dark.” She declared that America is taking “A bullet train to bankruptcy.” I like that. Nice alliteration, and a bit of irony, given our woeful lack of bullet trains. Perhaps Japan, with a surfeit of such trains, is taking an anime spaceship to bankruptcy?
Then there was Dowd colleague Paul Krugman, who actually admitted that things were being done to fight the recession, and we would indeed pull out. However, he was worried that stagnant growth could last five or six years. He didn’t mention some of the potential upsides: reducing personal debt; a chance to retool toward creating a greener infrastructure; and creating better jobs than the crap retail and service positions the economy has been churning out for the past two decades. If a miraculously strong recovery occurs by the end of the year, we’ll be back to stuffing our homes and garages with flat-screen TVs and SUVs, racking up more debt, and getting right back on track for that permanent screwing many of us richly deserve.
Speaking of permanency, even the Great Depression didn’t last forever. And despite the incessant chatter otherwise, this is not your grandfather’s depression. Bear in mind: national unemployment is still below 8%, and the overall drop in GDP has been little more than 2%. I’ve provided some charts on the Great Depression for comparison below. They’re courtesy of the people who brought you PowerPoint, the single greatest force in the history of mankind for eliminating thoughtful analysis and even middling attention spans. Which explains a hell of a lot.