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comment: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN TWO DAYS PRIOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS 2014 BUDGET, AND PREDICTED MOSTLY WHAT HE PROPOSED RE. CUTS IN SOCIAL SECURITY-MEDICARE AND RESTORATION OF CUTS IN DEFENSE SPENDING. THE ARTICLE SUMMARIZES THE HISTORY OF DEFICIT CUTTING FROM OBAMA’S ORIGINAL PROPOSAL OF A ‘GRAND BARGAIN’ IN SUMMER 2011 TO HIS CURRENT ‘COLLUSION’ WITH HOUSE REPUBLICATIONS TO CUT SOCIAL SECURITY AND RESTORE SEQUESTERED DEFENSE SPENDING CUTS.

ON APRIL 10, PRESIDENT Obama released his formal budget for Fiscal 2014 beginning this October. Liberals should not act shocked and surprised: Obama’s repeated offers to cut Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, and other yet undefined Medicare measures, are a continuation of his practice and approach for the past two years.

The budget will usher in the final stage of negotiations over the proposed deficit cuts — Austerity American Style — that began with the recommendations of Obama’s Deficit Cutting Commission, referred to as the Simpson-Bowles report, that was made public in November 2010.

The Simpson-Bowles Commission — chaired by arch-conservative retired Senator Alan Simpson, and Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, now investment banker Erskine Bowles — proposed an approximate $4 trillion cut in U.S. deficits and debt for the subsequent decade. Their report has been the ‘template’ for deficit cutting negotiations ever since.

Issued around the time the Teapublicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives in late 2010, the report was offered by the Obama administration as the basis for negotiating a “grand bargain” of $4 trillion in deficit cuts in summer of 2011. The $4 trillion target was agreed by virtually all parties in Congress and the administration at that time — and ever since. The only difference was, and remains, “the mix:” how much in spending cuts vs. how much tax revenue hikes; how much to cut defense spending vs. how much social programs; and how much to tax the wealthiest 2% vs. the middle class.

In June 2011, Vice-President Biden was assigned by Obama to begin negotiating the basis for the “grand bargain.” He and House Speaker John Boehner attempted and failed to do so, even though Biden had offered a package of 87% spending cuts to only 13% tax hikes — even more onerous than Simpson-Bowles’ recommended 75%-25% mix.

Obama then took over negotiations with Boehner directly in July 2011. He unilaterally — i.e. with no counter concession from Boehner — offered to cut Social Security and Medicare by $700 billion to entice Boehner and House Teapublicans into a deal. Offering big cuts in Social Security-Medicare has thus been a bargaining tactic by Obama, the “carrot” dangled to the Teapublicans to entice them to agree to a $4 trillion Grand Bargain from the very beginning.

Boehner and the Teapublicans did not bite on Obama’s grand bargain offer in July 2011, however. They held firm and demanded an “all spending cuts” agreement in exchange for raising the federal government the debt ceiling in August 2011. They got their way. Obama and the Democrats caved in on all his demands by August for some tax revenue hikes. All they got from the August 2011 debt ceiling deal was agreement from the Teapublicans not to raise the debt ceiling issue again until after the November 2012 elections. Very convenient for the president and the Democrats; not so for the rest of us since the August deal involved $1 trillion in immediate social spending only cuts, mostly in public education, with another $1.2 trillion in spending only cuts — the “sequester cuts” — that would take effect on January 1, 2013.
As part of that August 2011 $2.2 trillion deal, Congress was given the option to cut even more than the $1.2 trillion ‘sequester’ part of the total. A special committee of Congress (the so- called Supercommittee of House and Senate leaders) was established and given the option to cut more than the $1.2 trillion by year end 2011. The Supercommittee, however, not surprisingly decided to “kick the can down the road,” shelvingf all deficit cutting during the 2012 election year.
Instead, in 2012 both parties and their candidates talked about economic programs neither had any intention of introducing. Regardless of who won the November 2012 election, the Simpson- Bowles “template” was waiting in the desk top drawer, to be resurrected after November 2012. And that’s just what happened: Within days following the election, Obama immediately offered $340 billion in “entitlement” program cuts in his attempt once again to resurrect the grand bargain negotiations.

Phony Fiscal Cliff: It’s the Tax Cuts, Stupid!

But the Teapublicans and big corporate interests, in the form of the Business Roundtable in particular — the biggest and most influence U.S. corporate lobbying group, composed of CEOs of the largest corporations — were neither interested in a “grand bargain” at that time. The Business Roundtable preferred to focus initially only on the Bush tax cuts that were also scheduled to expire January 1 — not the “sequestered” $1.2 trillion in spending cuts also scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013.

The Bush tax cuts — more than 80% accruing to wealthy households and investors — were far more important to them than the spending cuts. Their primary goal has always been to protect and extend the Bush tax cuts; cutting spending and deficits has always been secondary, and the cuts should be at the expense of social programs.

The Bush tax cuts amounted to $4.6 trillion for the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO’s projected deficits for the coming decade, should the Bush tax cuts be totally repealed, amounted to only $2.5 trillion. Extending the tax cuts meant the projected deficit would amount to around $7 trillion. To borrow the popular phrase: It’s not about deficits; it’s the Bush tax cuts, stupid!

Following last November 2012’s elections, the Teapublicans initially wanted all the Bush cuts extended permanently, but the Business Roundtable wanted some kind of a settlement on the tax issue first. Without that happening, the Roundtable’s even bigger objective of a major revision of the entire tax code, including cuts in the top rate of corporate taxes from 35% to 26%, already working its way through Congress, could not proceed. To preserve as much of the Bush tax cuts as possible the issue had to be decoupled from the sequester. Furthermore, the Bush tax cuts had to be resolved before the tax code could be revised and corporate tax rates reduced.
Following the November elections, the Roundtable therefore blocked with Obama and against the House Teapublicans. To get the public on board, the media spin given to the Bush tax cuts extension was labeled the “Fiscal Cliff.” Although the media included the sequestered spending cuts as part of the “Fiscal Cliff,” that issue was separated tactically by both the Roundtable and Obama weeks before January 1, 2013.

With the assistance of House Speaker Boehner, Obama plus the Roundtable prevailed over the Teapublicans. It was touch and go, with Teapublican leaders like Ryan and Cantor wavering and striking a neutral pose to protect their ultra-conservative credentials. But no doubt in the end, campaign finance spending by the Roundtable big corporations prevailed and the Obama- Roundtable-Boehner nexus were able to swing a sufficient number of House Republicans to get a “tax deal” on January 1, 2013.

And how sweet a deal it was. Only $60 billion a year of the deficit was reduced, impacting less than 0.7% of the wealthiest households — far fewer than Obama’s promised 2%. Moreover, as part of the deal, the Alternative Minimum Tax was permanently repealed (amounting to about $100 billion a year tax cut benefit to the wealthy), the Inheritance Tax was cut even more generously than under Bush, and all the other Bush tax cuts were made permanent. No need to extend them ever again.

The total cost in revenue loss and therefore deficit increase that remained was $4 trillion over the coming decade. Ironically, that’s just about what the Simpson-Bowles commission recommended in deficit reduction. The deficit for the coming decade was thus raised from $2.5 trillion to now about $7 trillion as result of the Bush tax cut deal — billed as “avoiding the Fiscal Cliff” — of January 1, 2013. Now the attack on spending could begin in earnest once again, and focusing on entitlements in particular.

As part of the January 1 deal, the sequestered additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts were postponed for two more months, until March 1, 2013. In signing the deal on January 2, Obama declared that more tax revenue hikes would have to be negotiated in future deals. No doubt he and Democrats believed that the March 1 date would put pressure on the Teapublicans to compromise on more tax hikes in exchange for avoiding the approximate $500 billion in defense spending cuts that were part of the sequestered $1.2 trillion going into effect on March 1.

There was also the March 27, 2013 date when the Federal government would run out of money to pay its bills. Surely, the Teapublicans didn’t want to get blamed again for that fiasco, as they had been in the past? And thereafter there was the May 18, 2013 revisiting of the debt ceiling extension. Obama undoubtedly believed that somewhere along this line the Republicans would give him the token tax hikes he needed as cover to agree to his massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid he was always willing to make as part of a Grand Bargain.

But the Teapublicans again called his bluff. They let the sequestered spending cuts, including the defense cuts, go into effect on March 1, 2013. They then agreed to fund the government past March 27 and suggested as well the debt ceiling would not be an issue. This left Obama with no bargaining leverage for insisting on tax revenue hikes. His answer has been his increasingly desperate re-offering of big Social Security and Medicare cuts in recent weeks, some of which appear in part in his April 10 budget. That will serve as a base from which he will then agree to even further cuts in subsequent negotiations with Teapublicans in the House (and Roundtable CEOs in the background).

Some Key Strategic Questions

The question is why have the Teapublicans agreed to the token January 1 tax hikes? Why did they agree to allow the $1.2 trillion sequestered cuts, including defense spending, go into effect? Why did they not engage in brinksmanship again on March 1 or March 27, unlike wqhat they did in August 2011? And why will they not go to the brink again on the debt ceiling issue when it arises once more in May?

The answer to the first question is that they got a tax deal they simply couldn’t refuse on January 1, and one which their big corporate campaign benefactors, the Business Roundtable, wanted. After having blocked with Obama prior to the January 1 deal, however, the Roundtable has since shifted gears and adopted in total the Teapublicans’ position on subsequent spending cuts.
In February 2013, the Roundtable came out with its position paper on the matter of sequestered cuts and entitlement spending. It proposed to cut the Social Security COLA (cost of living adjustment), introduce a means test for Medicare, raise the eligibility age for both Medicare AND social security to 70, and convert Medicare into a voucher system in 2022. That’s exactly the Teapublican-Paul Ryan program.

With big corporate interests now in their corner firmly with regard to entitlement cuts as the primary focus of deficit cutting, why should the Teapublicans agree to any further tax hikes on the rich? And with the Roundtable and CEOs now firmly on their side, and the tax cuts successfully decoupled from the spending cuts, why should the Teapublicans go to the brink over shutting down the government on March 27? By March 1 they were already almost three- fourths of the way to the $4 trillion deficit target, with a total of $2.8 trillion in spending cuts and token tax hikes!
By letting the March 1 sequestered cuts take effect, the Teapublicans in effect did to Obama on the topic of defense spending what Obama had the opportunity – but didn‘t take — to do to them on the topic of Bush tax cuts on January 1. Obama could have let all the Bush tax cuts expire January 1, and then reintroduced middle class tax cuts only on January 2. That would have put the Teapublicans in the position of having to vote down middle class tax cuts. But he didn’t, and settled for the paltry 0.7% hike on taxes on the wealthy, some of which will undoubtedly be reversed again, buried deep in the legislation, when the major tax code negotiations conclude later this year.

The Teapublicans, by allowing the sequestered defense cuts to take effect on March 1, can also always reintroduce legislation piecemeal later this year to restore many of the defense cuts.
It’s not surprising that Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, and others in Congress, in recent weeks have offered “deals” amounting to another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. That number is not coincidental, as $1.2 trillion is now the remaining “target” number . Graham’s proposal is for $600 billion in Social Security and Medicare cuts and another $600 billion in unspecified tax revenues.

So why should Teapublicans precipitate a political crisis over the March 1 or March 27 deadlines? Why should they repeat the debt ceiling crisis on May 18? They’re winning hands down.

What Obama May Propose

Having agreed to decouple tax cuts on January 1 and having been outmaneuvered on March 1 and March 27, and with Teapublicans signaling there will be no debt ceiling crisis in May, Obama has been stripped of all his leverage points in bargaining. Obama has left only the option to offer even more Social security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts. And throughout March he continued to do so, once again unilaterally — not just offering again to cut COLA adjustments for Social Security but suggesting his willingness to confront big cuts in the $600-$700 billion range for Medicare and Social Security and more for Medicaid.

But Obama has planned all along to cut Social Security and Medicare. He made that clear in his signing of the Bush tax cuts deal on January 2, 2013, during which he stated: “Medicare is the main cause of deficits.” Again in his February State of the Union address, the president publicly noted he “liked the Simpson-Bowles” recommendations concerning Medicare cuts.

And what are those recommendations? Instituting a new $550 a year deductible for Parts A and B of Medicare, and providing only 80% coverage for Part A instead of the current 100% (which would require another $150-$300 a month in private insurance to cover the remaining 20%, much like Part B now). That together amounts to another $195-$350 taken out of monthly Social Security checks, when the average for social security benefit payments is only $1100 a month today.

In other words, Medicare benefits will not be cut – but if seniors want to maintain current levels of benefits they’ll have to pay even more for them. Alternatively, they can choose to have fewer benefits and not pay more. It’s all about rationing health care, just as Obamacare for those under 65 is essentially about rationing — as were Bush’s proposals to expand health savings accounts (HSAs) and Bill Clinton’s health maintenance organization (HMOs) solution.

With only $1.2 more to cut in deficit spending to reach the Simpson-Bowles $4 trillion target, and Obama offering again his $600-$700 billion enticement in entitlement spending cuts, a deal is closer than ever before. Watch therefore for the full $600 billion in Social security, Medicare and Medicaid to take effect, the effective date of the changes to be backloaded in later years of the decade and certainly not before the 2014 midterm elections.

Expect defense spending cuts of no more than half the $500 billion proposed in the sequester, and nearly all of which will be from withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq operations, not from equipment spending. After 2014, most will be recouped as defense spending on naval and air force equipment and operations will ramp up for the shift of U.S. military focus to the Pacific. They Army brass haqs had its land wars in Asia; now it’s the turn of Navy and Air Force.

That leaves only a “token” tax revenue increase of about $200 billion over the coming decade, or a paltry $20 billion a year, which will come in difficult to estimate phony “loophole” closings. Major cuts in corporate taxes later in 2013 will not be factored into the Grand Bargain $4 trillion official calculations. In addition to big cuts in the top corporate tax rate, look as well for multinational corporations’ tax breaks and tax forgiveness on the $1.4 trillion they are presently sheltering in offshore subsidiaries. Of course, small-to-medium business will be thrown yet another tax cut bone to buy into the deal. In exchange, the middle class will pay more in terms of limits on deductions and exemptions.

Grand Collusion

In retrospect over the past three years, and especially since November 2012, the Grand Bargain looks less like a bargain and more like a “grand collusion” among the various parties — Teapublican, Big Corporate, Obama, and the pro-corporate wing of Democrats in Congress that have had a stranglehold on the Democratic party since the late 1980s.

This is not the Democratic Party of your grandfather that agreed to introduce Social Security in the 1930s and that proposed Medicare in the 1960s. This is the Democratic Party, and the Democratic President, that has agreed with Republicans and Corporate America to begin the repealing in stages of these very same programs — programs that are not “entitlements” but are in fact deferred wages earned by Americans over the decades, are now being “concession bargained” away.

Not content with concessions from those workers still in the labor force, capitalist policymakers are intent on concessions on social wages now coming due in the form of Social Security and Medicare benefits. It’s a charade from Simpson-Bowles to the present.

What should be done? Writing letters to Congress won’t change anything. What is now necessary is to begin the formation nationwide of Social Security-Medicare Defense Clubs. After all, that’s how Social Security started in the first place. Neither party proposed it in the 1930s initially.

In fact, Roosevelt initially publicly advocated that Social Security should not be part of the New Deal. A grassroots protest organized by the clubs forced him and the Democrats to reverse this position just before the midterm 1934 elections and support the proposal for Social Security. Now it’s time to reform the clubs to defend Social Security — and the first action should be to call for a million person march on Washington to reverse whatever cuts are surely ahead.

Jack is the author of Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few (2012), which provides a history of deficit cutting in the US and predictions of its impact. His blog is jackrasmus.com. For a video presentation on Social Security and Medicare given recently to the Progressive Democrats of America, see his website at http://kyklosproductions.com/video/130228_PDA-forum_rasmus/.

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Friday, June 1, is a date that marks a shift in the public consciousness of the state of the US and global economy.  What was touted for months over the past winter as a rebound taking hold in the US economy and the assertions that the US economy was ‘exceptional’ and would not suffer the slowdowns underway in Europe, China and the rest of the world – were all swept away on June 1 by the May US jobs report, a downward revised U.S. GDP numbers for the first quarter 2012, as well as by the rapidly deteriorating banking and general economic situation in the Eurozone.

Why Economists’ Jobs Forecasts Consistently Miss Their Mark

On the jobs front, Friday’s labor department data showed a growth of only 69,000 jobs, while the preceding month’s jobs numbers were revised downward for April from 115,000 to only 77,000. Both months were originally officially forecast by mainstream economists to show jobs growth of 150,000 and 180,000 respectively. A day earlier, the first quarter GDP numbers were also adjusted downward from 2.2% growth to only 1.9%, a decline that was totally unexpected by most economists, who had been forecasting that the current quarter, April-June, GDP would come in around the 2.5% to 3% range. But now will almost certainly end up in the 1.5% or even lower range, given a likely more rapid slowing in June.

One cannot miss jobs and GDP forecasts that badly without something being fundamentally wrong with forecast methodologies employed by most mainstream economists today, a point this writer has been making publicly repeatedly since last December.

The main excuse being offered today by economists for missing their recent jobs and GDP forecasts so badly is ‘the weather’.  The exceptionally good weather this past winter, it is argued, moved normal spring production and jobs up by several months into the winter numbers. Another favorite excuse now appearing is that growing uncertainty about the coming ‘fiscal cliff’ (read: excessive deficits) after the upcoming November elections has resulted in an unanticipated slowing of business spending, and therefore of new investment and consequent job creation.

But the extremely poor jobs numbers for May and April have very little to do with the ‘weather this past winter’. Nor with business confidence impacted by anticipated deficits and debt levels after the November elections. It’s just bad forecasting, the result of cherry-picking the most recent jobs data to forecast long term, but without considering the broader economic picture and ‘broad turning points’ in the US and global economy.

In part, the winter months’ jobs numbers were grossly overestimated statistically for several reasons. As this writer has repeatedly noted in this and other publications, the jobs numbers during this past winter were suspect in the first place, largely boosted by questionable statistical adjustments based on methodologies that were more relevant pre-2007, but less so today. When this past winter’s jobs reports, averaging more than 200,000 a month are ‘smoothed’ out with April and May jobs results, what remains is a picture of continuing stagnant jobs growth since the economic relapse of last summer 2011.

To the extent jobs growth did occur over the winter, that growth was due to business spending, the nature of which was clearly unsustainable beyond a few months. Very short term, temporary factors were at work at the time that were clear for anyone willing to look: (1) excessive inventory build-up after the general inventory spending collapse of last summer; (2) business one time leveraging of end-of-year tax cuts; and (3) auto sales recovering from summer 2011 supply disruptions combined with deep year-end price discounting by the auto companies. None of which were long-term sustainable, as recent data are now beginning to show. And none of all this has anything to do with ‘business confidence’ falling due to growing concern about deficits and debt levels post-November elections.

Since August 2011, including the questionable brief jobs surge over the winter, the U.S. economy on average has been creating jobs at a pace of barely 125,000 a month, i.e. not even sufficient to absorb new entrants into the labor force. The reasons for the long term stagnation of job creation in the U.S. are simple. There is still no real recovery in new housing and construction spending in the U.S.; the Obama administration’s policies subsidizing manufacturing and exports since 2010 have produced a mere dribble of new jobs (even though many jobs created are at half pay); state and local governments continue to lay off tens of thousands every month; hundreds of thousands of workers continue to leave the labor force monthly; bank lending to small businesses never really recovered from 2009 lows and is slowing once again; and real median household incomes have continued to decline in 2012, devastated in recent months a third time in as many years by rising gas, food, healthcare, education costs, and other prices.

Specifically, household consumption – the most important economic sector – continues today at best to stumble along, kept from contracting sharply only by rising credit card balances, historically cheap auto financing, rising household dis-saving, and, for the wealthiest 10%, by the ups and downs of the stock market (now in another sharp down phase until the Fed announces another ‘QE3’ program later this year). But there is no basic household income growth for the bottom 80%, nearly 100 million, households in the U.S. Median household income has fallen by more than 5% the past few years, continuing what is clearly a long term trend that began more than a decade ago in 2001, and thus far resulting in a decline of more than 10%.

Credit card, debt-driven, dis-saving-based consumption cannot be sustained. And without fundamental household income growth for the bottom 80%, combined with fundamental reduction of household debt loads, no sustained jobs recovery will occur.

The 1st Quarter GDP Statistical Revision

A similar critique applies to mainstream economists’ winter predictions that GDP would continue to rise in the second quarter higher than the first quarter’s initial 2.2% estimate.

As previously noted, GDP growth in the fourth quarter was largely inventory driven or a result of one-time year-end business spending designed to leverage business tax cuts. To the extent household spending occurred, it was debt and dis-saving driven. Both inventory spending and business spending thereafter slowed significantly in the first quarter, while government spending at all levels continued to decline significantly.  Manufacturing and exports grew only modestly in the quarter.

But economists nonetheless predicted manufacturing and exports would accelerate in the second quarter, jobs growth over the winter would raise income and household consumption, and the ‘warm winter’ construction trend finally signified a turnaround of the housing sector and its recovery and contribution to growth in the spring. But none of this happened after February.

Almost all economists underestimated the impact of first quarter accelerating gas and fuel prices on consumers’ spending.  The run-up in gas prices was largely the consequence of global speculators’ driving up the price of oil, combined with US refineries conveniently shutting down refinery plants simultaneously (which they typically do when there’s a surge in global crude oil prices), plus retail stations then holding prices at the pump up while crude and refinery prices fall. This coordinated supply chain development has occurred repeatedly since 2008. That year surging oil (and commodity) prices drove inflation to excess levels, despite a recession in the US already underway. It happened again in 2010, and again in 2011. The impact of rising gas prices on the US economy is generally underestimated by economists. The impact of the first quarter 2012 surge in gas prices on the current slowing of the US economy has been significant – and was generally unheeded by economists in their GDP growth projections earlier this year.

Nor were sanguine forecasts for the first quarter of accelerating jobs growth realized. Instead, jobs growth in April and May collapsed, as noted above – and with it, the projected income and consumption recovery. Home sales and home prices further disappointed, confirming no real recovery in construction. Finally, manufacturing and exports began to hit the wall of a global manufacturing slowdown, most serious in the Eurozone, but occurring in China, Brazil, India and elsewhere as well.

Already by June, bank research departments project a lower estimate for GDP growth for the second quarter, and even the third, July-September. But just as they underestimated the gas spike effect and the jobs collapse earlier, they are similarly underestimating the general impact of the Eurozone crisis and the global manufacturing slowdown now beginning to worsen rapidly.

The Eurozone Crisis and US Economic Contagion

 The Obama administration’s first and second economic recovery programs, costing nearly $1.7 trillion in tax cuts and spending in 2009-2010, failed to produce a sustained economic recovery by 2011. The third recovery program, dribbling out piecemeal since September 2011 and culminating in the absurd ‘JOBS’ bill and HARP 2.0 housing plan, is now proving no more effective than the previous two programs in 2009 and 2010.

At the center of Obama’s third recovery program has been a focus on manufacturing-exports, run by General Electric’s CEO, Jeff Immelt.  At the request of the big multinational corporations in 2010, Obama delivered more free trade agreements, more business deregulation, more pro-US business trade assistance, backed off from insisting they repatriate offshore profits and pay taxes, and introduced other manufacturing-centric US corporate assistance. This manufacturing-exports strategy was purportedly to generate the recovery that the 2009-10 first two programs did not. Manufacturing would ‘lead us out of the recession’, Obama and business announced. But it hasn’t – and it won’t.

Manufacturing now represents too small a total of the US economy at only 12% and employs only 11 million out of a US labor force of more than 150 million. The US dismantled and shipped its manufacturing base overseas over the past three decades. Multinational corporations admit that, in the last decade alone, they reduced employment in the US by 2.7 million jobs and hired 2.4 million offshore. Approximately 8 million jobs in manufacturing in the US have been lost just since 2000. Yet manufacturing, and the even smaller sector of manufactured exports, was supposed to generate the recovery in 2011-12 that still has not occurred.

Manufacturing did revive modestly since early 2011 but, as this writer predicted in late 2011, has now run headlong into a rapidly declining global manufacturing sector. The Eurozone’s manufacturing and exports have plummeted since late last year. Virtually all Eurozone economies’ manufacturing indicators (PMI) are also now declining. Moreover, China, Brazil and other key economies’ manufacturing and exports sectors are contracting as well. Manufacturing and exports are rapidly slowing across the world.

There is no therefore way US manufacturing and exports can continue to grow in a global economy where they are rapidly declining just about everywhere else. Meanwhile, housing and construction in the US is still bumping along a depression level bottom, with only apartment building showing any signs of growth. And state and local government spending continues to contract in most regions. Along with stagnant jobs growth, this is a scenario for slower growth in what remains of 2012, not a recovery.

Some mainstream liberal economists argue the Eurozone and China’s declining manufacturing and exports sectors will not negatively impact the US economy, since trade in goods is not that large a part of the US economy. But the flow of goods is not the key transmission mechanism for the contagion of the Eurozone’s accelerating recession impact on the US economy. The key transmission mechanism for the contagion is the banking system. Bank lending is already freezing up in Europe, as all the economies there (except Germany) have already crossed the threshold into what will prove a deep and protracted recession. Potential bank losses will likely spread from Spain and Greece to elsewhere in Europe, in particular Italy and France. Those losses and the lending freeze will spread to the US, where bank lending, already slowing to small and medium businesses again, will decline still further in the US, resulting in a slowing US economy in turn.  Meanwhile, the US corporate bond markets and bond issues are slowing, junk bonds in particular. That will result in a further US slowdown in business spending and job creation.

 

As this writer concluded last October 2011 in the book, ‘Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few’, which predicted a steeply slowing global economy in 2012 driven by the Eurozone and a ‘hard landing’ in China, Brazil, and elsewhere, “The U.S., Eurozone and U.K. economies are tightly integrated, not just financially, but in a host of other economic ways. What happens on either side of the Atlantic soon produces a similar reaction on the other.”

In the months to come, the jobs markets in the US will continue at best to stagnate; apart from seasonality factors, the housing market will continue to ‘bump along the bottom’ as it has for four years now; government spending will continue to decline; and business spending, bank lending, manufacturing and exports will continue to slow, while consumers will continue to rely on credit and dis-saving to maintain consumption. GDP as a result will continue to lag.

And when US political elites gather immediately after the November elections, both political parties’ leaders will agree by December 31 to cut $2-$4 trillion more in spending in addition to the $2.2 trillion already scheduled to begin in January 2013. But they won’t call it austerity, which is the term for the deficit cutting in Europe from Greece to the U.K that is driving their economies into a deeper crisis. US capitalists and policy makers are more clever than their European counterparts. The US code words used for austerity will be ‘grand bargain’ and ‘fiscal cliff’.

Jack Rasmus

Copyright June 2012

Jack is the author of the April 2012 published book, “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, published by Pluto books and distributed by Palgrave-Macmillan. His blog is jackrasmus.com and website: www.kyklosproductions.com

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