What a financial tailspin may mean for you and me

Wall Street plummeted as concerns over European debt and the US economic downturn spurred a broad sell-off. Photograph: Shen Hong/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Read my article from Guardian Cif, Friday 19th August:

As bank shares and stock markets plummet, and investors flock to the safety of government bonds; as obstinate EU leaders crucify their countries in a futile struggle to defend today’s equivalent of the gold standard; as British and American politicians adopt austerity policies and drive their economies closer to the cliffs of depression; and as most professional economists stand aloof from the escalating crisis – what lies ahead for ordinary punters like you and me?

First, let’s take look at the big political picture. This crisis is already sharpening the divide between left and right in both the EU and the United States. Studying a precedent – the implosion of the 1920s credit bubble in 1929 – we note that four years after that crisis erupted, the political divide sharpened decisively. The United States and Britain moved to the left. Germany chose a different path. After 1930, Germany’s Centre party under Chancellor Brüning adopted austerity policies that resulted in cuts in welfare benefits and wages, while credit was tightened. At the same time the German government engaged in wildly excessive borrowing from the liberalised international capital markets. The ground was laid for the rise of fascism.

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Is the banking system broke, as well as broken?

Much of the news of the last few weeks –

… can be explained by the  need for banks to urgently raise money to fix their balance sheets. Unfortunately their activities are akin to the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. Just as they raise funds from e.g. commodity speculation to shore up balance sheets, those funds may be drained from some other part of the bank by e.g. a rise  in mortgage defaults or company bankruptcies as economic activity stalls, house prices fall,  foreclosures are held up by legal arguments, and the over-borrowed fail to repay.
This explains why the banking system may be broke, as well as broken.

Faux optimism & flawed economics

December 1st, 2009

There was much huffing and puffing by the cheerleaders for premature economic recovery when the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK was still in recession last week. These same ‘pied pipers’ tried to discredit the ONS’s previous factual announcements. Now the CBI has reported an ‘unexpected’ dip in sales in the service sector and then there was a ‘surprise’ dip in manufacturing during November.

No surprise to those of us living in the real world – with no vested interest in talking up stocks and shares.

And no surprise to those of us watching thousands of jobs disappear as companies as varied as Borders, First Quench (Threshers and other drinks outlets) and General Motors in Luton – cut back, or close down.

And no surprise to the millions of workers whose compensation has fallen for five straight quarters on an annual basis.  I am grateful to Graham Turner of GFC Economics for the chart below – and strongly recommend his latest book ‘No Way to Run an Economy’

No way to run an economy

Ann Pettifor: September 24, 2009

As world leaders meet in Pittsburgh and then Istanbul (for the World Bank and IMF meetings) expect much self-congratulation and back-slapping for having got the world through the post-Lehman crisis.

But behind the cacophony of self-praise, watch out for three alarms flashing red:

  • The escalating foreclosure and rising mortgage delinquency rates in the US
  • The dramatic contraction of credit in the US over the summer – putting paid to any hope of the US acting as the ‘engine’ of a global recovery
  • That big accident waiting to happen to the European economies –Spain

With the help of a great new book – about to be published in the US – let’s take a look at why there is no room for complacency.

No way to run an economy” (Pluto Press, 2009) is by a man whose research and analyses I have come to respect and rely upon – Graham Turner of GFC economics. While the book is full of solid facts and data – it is eminently readable for those prepared to unleash their inner wonk.

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