Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get Ready for the Meltdown

An economy is like a mating ritual. The parties dance around each other and perform rituals. Instead of confidence, we have fear right now. Fear and Desperation are setting in because we have so many issues that aren't being addressed--and a tax rebate is exactly the wrong thing to do when we're watching everything start to come undone. Desperation is so sexy--ask any college girl and she'll tell you that a nervous, shaking, visibly horny young man who can't make up his mind and can't stop fidgeting with his keys always looks better than the guy who doesn't wear a watch and listens intently whenever someone speaks.

This is desperation, in an economy:

Federal Reserve makes emergency rate cut
Key U.S. interest rate slashed by three-quarters of percentage point

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve, confronted with increased fears of a recession, cut a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point on Tuesday in an emergency move.

U.S. stock futures seesawed Tuesday after the Federal Reserve, responding to a growing financial market crisis, slashed interest rates 0.75 percentage point.

Dow Jones industrial futures, down more than 500 points before the Fed move, were fluctuating violently an hour before the start of trading.

The Interest rate cut comes as a panicked, desperate reaction to this bit of reality:

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 5.65 percent — its biggest percentage drop in nearly a decade. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 8.65 percent a day after showing its biggest losses since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.69 percent, Germany's DAX index lost 2.55 percent and, France's CAC-40 fell 1.39 percent.

But don't worry, kids--Sean Hannity has it all squared away:

[Alan] COLMES: That doesn’t seem to be helping the economy very much…because things aren’t going so well.

[Sean] HANNITY: It is, Alan. The economy is phenomenal. Where have you been living?

Do you think a good many of our fellow Americans don't have the slightest clue as to what's going on because they've been going to Hannity and Fox News for their information? Think there's any kind of "cause and effect" here?


I still keep reading articles asserting that the last two recessions were brief and shallow. Formally, that’s true. But both were followed by prolonged “jobless recoveries” that felt like continuing recessions. Below is the employment-population ratio since 1989, with shading showing the official recessions. In both cases the employment slump went on for a long time after the recession was supposedly over.
There’s every reason to think that the same thing will happen this time. There’s a huge overhang of excess housing inventory; it will probably take several years before housing prices fall to realistic levels; and it’s not at all clear what will fill the gap left by weak housing and consumer spending.
There’s still the question of how deep the slump will be. I can see the case for arguing that it will be nasty. The 1990-91 recession was brought on by a credit crunch, the 2001 recession by overinvestment; this time we’ve got both. I guess we’ll see. In any case, whatever happens will probably last quite a while.


The United States is so broke, its people at every level from the Federal Reserve on down don't know whether to shit or go blind. The homeowners cringing in the media rooms of their 5000-square-foot personal family resorts don't know how long they can stay put microwaving pepperoni hot pockets with the default clock ticking. The mortgage "servicers" don't know how they will persuade interested parties like, say, the Illinois State Cafeteria Workers' Pension Fund (holder of X-amount of mortgage-backed securities underwritten by, say, Merrill Lynch or Deutsche Bank) to foreclose on properties scattered everywhere from from Key West to Bainbridge Island -- or if there is actually any mechanism known to man that would make it possible to "work out" the sliced-and-diced collateral. The millions of maxed-out credit card holders and the issuers of their plastic are stuck together paddling a leaky tub in a sea of troubles every bit as wide, deep, and polluted as the one the mortgage junkies and their enablers are sinking in. The developers of malls, office parks, and power centers are weeping into their filing cabinets as the harsh daylight of insolvency stops the orgy of "consumption" and the retail tenants pack up their unsellable goodies for the liquidators, and the rent checks stop arriving in the mail, and the notes on this mall and that mall enter the eerie realm of "non-performance." And, of course, there are the genius wonder boyz and Wall Street playerz whose algorithms and turpitudes underwrote the script of this horror show -- for all I know they'll end up laughing into sugary skull drinks on a beach in the Cayman Islands, or doing Chinese fire drills in federal prison (or simply ass-fucked on the granite countertops of their Tribecca aeries by mobs of angry, repossessed, swindled former American dreamers pouring into Manhattan from the tract house dormitories of New Jersey and Long Island).

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