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Today the Federal Reserve crossed its latest liquidity free money Rubicon. It announced it will provide unlimited credit–and assume the bad debts, not just of banks, shadow banks, and wealthy investors but for what it called ‘Main St.’

But by ‘Main St.’ it doesn’t mean consumers or households. It means that virtually any capitalist financial enterprise that has bad debt it can now dump it on the Fed. In today’s announcement of its latest ‘lending facility’, as it is called, the Fed declared it would ‘support’ small business loans, student loans, auto securitized loans, and credit card debt. But that does not mean the Fed will ‘support’ consumers and assume their loans. Oh no! It means it will support the financial lenders making such loans for students, auto purchases, credit cards and small businesses.

It means these lenders can now dump their bad, defaulted,or otherwise non-performing debt from credit cards, auto loans, student or small business loans on the Fed. The Fed will eat it for them, and add it to the Fed’s own $4 trillion plus indebted balance sheet–soon to rise to $8 trillion or more.

I propose therefore we erect a new Statue of Money Capital on the steps in front of the Federal Reserve building in Washington D.C. A companion to the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor. And on it we should inscribe the following motto:

“Give me your busted financial speculators, your bankrupt businesses, your huddled hedge funds yearning for guaranteed high yield. The wretched of your banking system. Send me your former millionaires with now empty accounts and I will make them whole again. I lift my greenback lamp beside my free money door. Come in and get what you want!”

by Dr. Jack Rasmus
March 23, 2020

The US will lose 2 million jobs just in March (Bloomberg News). US GDP will fall by -24% to -30% in second quarter (Goldman-Sachs & Morgan-Stanley Banks). Jobless rate could rise to 30% (Fed St. Louis Governor, Bullard). Federal Reserve promises $4T more to pre-bailout banks (Marketwatch). Financial markets imploding and credit system on verge of freeze up. Trump and US politicians considering sending people back to work despite higher cost in infections and deaths from the virus!

A month ago, in late February 2020, I was convinced the recession I have been predicting since January 2019 had arrived. Two weeks ago I began writing this would be another ‘Great Recession 2.0’, as in 2008-09. Now I’m not so convinced of even that. It may be worse, much worse. A bona fide Depression on the scale of the 1930s may be approaching.

US Real Economy Falling Faster Than 2008 or 1932

Just last week Goldman Sachs investment bank was predicting a -14% contraction of the US real economy in the second quarter, April-June 2020. Morgan Stanley followed with its prediction of a -30% drop in US GDP. Goldman has since modified its initial forecast to -24%.

This compares with the worst quarterly decline in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s, of -13%. The current contraction, in other words, is coming faster and deeper than any on record previously—whether compared to the 2008-09 Great Recession or the 1930s Depression.

As of the close of March 2020, about a third of the US economy is now shutdown. More is about to follow. The US regions most directly and heavily impacted by the coronavirus—Washington State, California and New York—are where business activity has virtually shut down except for emergency services. Other areas, like Illinois, Texas, and Florida are catching up fast.

Given the spreading shutdowns, focused in states of high concentration of economic production, according to current Federal Reserve central bank governor, Bullard, the unemployment rate will rise as high as 30%, and quickly. At least 2 million will be unemployed in March alone, just the first month of the crisis. That monthly unemployment rise also exceeds the worst months of the 2008-09 prior Great Recession.

In short, the real economy in the US has fallen into an economic ‘coma’, as some have accurately called it.

But that economy was already weak and fragile when the virus effect pushed it off a cliff. Already in late 2019, business investment had been contracting for nine months, the manufacturing sector was in a recession, trade was negatively affected by Trump’s 2018-19 trade wars, and household consumption was showing serious signs of weakening. For example, with regard to household consumption, the default rate on credit cards for median families had risen to nearly 9% by late 2019, more than 7 million auto loans had defaulted, and student loan defaults were rising as well (although covered up by clever government re-categorizing of loan defaults). The consumer was not in good shape, in other words, keeping spending afloat largely by credit based spending by the middle classes and by the high end income households’ spending based on inflating stock and financial gains (the wealth effect) and Trump’s massive tax cuts of 2018-19 flowing to their bottom lines.

Then the virus hit the economy like a baseball bat to the back of the head!

Financial Markets Price Implosion

Financial asset markets began to plummet. Artificially boosted for three years under Trump, US financial markets were fueled by Trump’s multi-trillion dollar tax cuts and low interest rates in prior years. That tax and cheap money windfall to business, senior managers and shareholders in turn was redistributed to managers and shareholders in the form of a flood of stock buybacks and dividend payouts. More than $3.4 trillion, in fact, in just the last three years!

The buybacks & dividends were then diverted once again in large part back into stocks and other financial markets once more. The artificial financial asset bubbles grew. But it was all artificial, driven by cheap money and massive tax cut income redistribution to investors, corporations, and the wealthiest 1%.

Under Trump, from 2017 through 2019, stock buybacks totaled more than $2 trillion. It went mostly to professional investors and CEOs and senior managers of companies (In tech companies, the amount of the buybacks going to CEOs and senior managers was as high as 70%, as for example occurred in Apple).

Another $1.4 trillion was distributed to shareholders in the form of dividend payouts. That’s a total of more than $3.5 trillion in tax cut and low interest driven income redistributed to the wealthiest households. Most of this massive income windfall was reinvested in financial markets. US stock markets alone under Trump rose by 25%-35% in just three years. And that’s just about the amount the same markets have now crashed in just one month under the virus’s economic impact!

Crashing stock prices are one key indicator of the onset of a Great Recession, nor a normal one. The same applies to the spread of financial asset collapse to other financial markets.

Already US stocks have contracted by 35%-40%. Oil and commodity futures prices by 40% or more, as the price per barrel of crude has fallen from $70 to the mid-$20s per barrel range. Other industrial commodity prices by 20%-30%. Currencies (aka foreign exchange) worldwide devaluing everywhere, with greatest pressure in India, Asia, and Latin America. Bond markets—corporate and government—have now begun to feel the pressure as well and are beginning to fracture. And bond markets are far more important to the stability of the capitalist economy than are even the stock markets.

As financial asset prices deflate rapidly holders of those assets try to dump them to contain losses. Everyone wants to sell; no one wants to buy. Prices deflate further. Often purchased on margin, by borrowing money to buy more assets during the boom period, ‘margin calls’ require even more selling—and even more financial asset price collapse. Investors become desperate to raise cash to cover their losses. A ‘dash for cash’ overwhelms investor, business, and consumer psychology. As losses exceed the ability to raise cash, financial markets begin to implode. And they are now falling line ‘ten pins’, one after the other.

Pre-Emptive Bank & Investor Bailouts

First stock markets, but in the past month, repo markets where banks loan to each other; then commercial paper markets and money market funds; then municipal bond markets; and residential mortgages; and leverage loans (junk loans); and, behind the scenes and intensifying, high yield (junk) corporate bonds and so-called BBB investment grade corporate bonds.

The latter junk corporate bond + BBB market in the US alone is valued at $6 trillion. Leveraged loans another $1.2 trillion. Muni bonds $4 trillion. Residential mortgages $11 trillion. All in trouble now. Plus Repos, Commercial Paper-money funds, and so on as well.

And let’s not forget oil-commodity futures global price deflation, collapsing emerging market economy currencies, and even growing troubles in national government bonds like US Treasuries, Gilts (UK), Bunds (Germany) and others, many of which were already trading in negative rate territory.

In short, the generalized financial markets collapse was a defining characteristic of the 2008-09 financial crisis. And it’s returned now with vengeance.

Also returning is the desperate effort by the Federal Reserve (and other central banks worldwide) to stuff the growing black holes in banks, shadow banks, and corporate balance sheets with new liquidity (money injections) in order to try to prevent defaults and bankruptcies. A bank-corporate bailout has already begun—even before the banks fail. It is pre-emptive in 2020, unlike ‘after the fact’ as in 2008. Banks have not yet crashed and are being bailed out!

The Federal Reserve in one week in mid-March injected $2.2 trillion in the form of $1.5T for the repo market and another $700 billion in Fed direct purchases of mortgage bonds and investor held Treasuries. It followed with unlimited further money to stave off collapse of the commercial paper-money market funds, the muni bonds, mortgage bonds, and reportedly to back up credit card and auto finance companies from their anticipated losses. The Fed also announced it would ‘swap’ US dollars for foreign currencies of other central banks in order to help their economies. The Fed has committed to $4T more in money injections to banks. And that’s in addition to the $2.2T already committed.

In other words, bankers will be bailed out $6.2T, and that’s probably just a start. That amount compares, by the way, to approximately $4.5T used to bailout the banks in 2008-09.

What about non-bank companies? They received a ten year Trump tax cut in January 2018 of no less than $4.5 trillion! They were then awarded with more tax loopholes in 2019 equal to $427 billion more. Now the Republican Senate in the US Congress is proposing another $500 billion with virtually no strings attached.

Yet Another Windfall for Non-Bank Corporate America

In contrast, the fiscal spending stimulus for Main St. and middle-working class families totals about $500B in the pending 2020 crisis recovery bill. It includes a one time cash rebate to households of $3,000 but no increase in unemployment benefits thereafter. It’s clearly a 30 day emergency package, even though the impact on the US economy from the virus will be for months to come.

The US economy generates $1.7 trillion in spending every month. The $1 trillion fiscal stimulus package coming from Congress will thus replace barely half of the lost spending by the US economy.

Big corporate interests and politicians in Washington DC know the depth of the current economic crisis—financial and real. They’re providing for the bankers and investors to the tune of $6.2 trillion, with an open ended checkbook for more if necessary. But they’re only providing for a one month bailout of Main St.

Already Trump is tweeting this package will be reviewed in 15 days. He’s thinking short term. So too are other politicians. Their media is pushing the theme that ‘maybe the economic costs are too high for the cost of the death rate from the virus’ that will occur. Politicians like New York governor, Cuomo, are raising the question, signaling the debate now rising within the economic and political elite; they are preparing the public. They are getting ready to trade off human lives for their economy. They are preparing to send people back to work after a month, regardless the health consequences. They fear economic collapse and their loss of incomes more than the virus and its destruction of American lives.

Trump may soon decide to announce “let them go back to work”. An echo perhaps of Marie Antoinette’s infamous line as her citizens were dying too: “let them eat cake”.

In short, we are now about to see that people’s lives are expendable, for their profits, income and wealth that are not.

Dr. Jack Rasmus
March 23, 2020

Check out Dr. Rasmus’s predictions since Sept. 2018 on recession and current events on this blog. And concluding chapters from his books, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’ 2016; ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’ 2017; ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’ 2010; and the most recent ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism’ 2020.. For day by day and hourly commentary, join Dr. Rasmus on twitter at @drjackrasmus, and listen to his weekly radio show commentaries in depth as the crisis unfolds, at http://alternativevisions.podbean.com.

Listen to my Alternative Visions radio show of Friday, March 20, as I present an update of the magnitude and scope of the economic crisis now unfolding, critique proposals coming out of Congress & Trump, and describe my own proposals published on this blog earlier this week (Phase 1 program with Phases 2,3 that must follow). Check out this blog below for postings of several of my recently published articles in print on the crisis as well.

TO LISTEN GO TO:

http://alternativevisions.podbean.com

    SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT:

Dr. Rasmus explains the dimensions and magnitude of the current contraction underway, including unemployment spiking at a faster and higher rate than in 2008 or 1929. GDP forecast contractions in 2Q20 will be more severe than the worse month in 1932. Rasmus proposes an ‘economic war mobilization’ that requires US government spending to rise from 21% of GDP today to 40%, as in 1942. That means a $4T increase in government spending, from current $4.4 trillion to $8.5T. His phase 1 proposed spending program, published earlier this week on the blog, jackrasmus.com, is reviewed and explained measure by measure. Current proposals in Congress are compared and critiqued as grossly deficient. Why $4T more spending will be needed to protect working class and middle class families and the millions of small businesses. How large corporations abused the economy by giving themselves >$1T/yr in stock buybacks and dividend payouts for 10 years, and should not be given government handouts but reorganized and restructured. A further Phase 2 program is described.

In September 2018 I wrote an article predicting the next economic crisis would occur in 2-3 years. I was wrong. It’s taken only 18 months. What follows are excerpts from that article, then entitled ‘Comparing 1929 with 2008 and the Next’. It is important to understand how the now three great economic crises of the last century are in many ways similar, marked by a joint collapse of financial markets and the real economy, the one determining the other, and vice versa, in a downward general spiral. In other words, how financial cycles and crises precipitate and enable real ‘great’ contractions (not normal recessions) and how, in turn, real economic collapse exacerbates financial collapse as well. It’s not that one causes the other; both cause each other.

What follows is the verbatim reproduction of that article (minus some comments on the then upcoming 2018 midterm elections. For the full article, go to my website, http://kyklosproductions.com/articles.html)

“PART 1:
The business and mainstream press this month, September 2018, has been publishing numerous accounts of the 2008 financial crash on its tenth anniversary. This month attention has been focused on the Lehman Brothers investment bank crash that accelerated the general financial system implosion in the US, and worldwide, ten years ago. Next month, October, we’ll no doubt hear more about the crash as it spread to the giant insurance company, AIG, and beyond that to other brokerages (Merrill Lynch), mid-sized banks (Washington Mutual), to the finance arms of the auto companies (GMAC) and big conglomerates (GE Credit), to the ‘too big to fail’ banks like Bank of America and Citigroup and beyond. These ‘reports’ are typically narrative in nature, however, and provide little in the way of deeper historical and theoretical analysis.

Parallels & Comparisons 1929 & 2008

It is often said that the initial months of the 2008-09 crash set the US economy on a trajectory of collapse eerily similar to that of 1929-30. Job losses were occurring at a rate of 1 million a month on average from October 2008 through March 2009. One might therefore think that mainstream economists would look closely at the two time periods—i.e. 1929-30 and 2008-09—to determine with patterns or similar causes were occurring. Or to a deep analysis of the periods immediately preceding 1929 and 2008 to see what similarities prevailed. But they haven’t.

What we got post-2009 from the economic establishment was a declaration simply that the 2008-09 crash was a ‘great recession’, and not a ‘normal’ recession as had been occurring from 1947 to 2007 in the US. But they provide no clarification quantitatively or qualitatively as to what distinguished a ‘great’ from ‘normal’ recession was provided. Paul Krugman coined the term, ‘great’, but then failed to explain how great was different than normal. It was somehow just worse than a normal recession and not as bad as a bona-fide depression. But that’s just economic analysis by adverbs.

It would be important to provide a better, more detailed explanation of 1929 vs. 2008, since the 1929-30 crash eventually led to a bona fide great depression as the US economy continued to descend further and deeper from October 1929 through the summer of 1933, driven by a series of four banking crashes from late 1930 through spring 1933 after the initial stock market crash of October 1929. In contrast, the 2008-09 financial crash leveled off after mid-2009.

Another similarity between 1929 and 2008 was the US economy stagnated 1933-34—neither robustly recovering nor collapsing further—and the US economy stagnated as well 2009-12. Upon assuming office in March 1933 President Roosevelt introduced a pro-business recovery program, 1933-34, focused on raising business prices, plus initiated a massive bank bailout. That bailout stopped further financial collapse but didn’t generate much real economic recovery. Similarly, Obama bailed out the banks (actually the Federal Reserve did) in 2009 but his recovery program of 2009-10, much like Roosevelt’s 1933-34, didn’t generate real economic recovery much as well.

After the failed business-focused recoveries, the differences between Roosevelt and Obama begin to show. Roosevelt during the 1934 midterm elections shifted policies to promising, then introducing, the New Deal programs. The economy thereafter sharply recovered 1935-37. In contrast, Obama stayed the course and doubled down on his business focused recovery program in 2010. He provided $800 billion more business tax cuts, paid for by $1 trillion in austerity programs for the rest of us in August 2011.

Not surprising, unlike Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, which boosted the economy significantly starting in 1935 after the midterms, Obama’s ‘Phony Deal’ recovery of 2009-11 resulted in the US real economy continuing to stagnate after 2009.

The historical comparisons suggest that both the great depression of 1929-33 (a phase of continuous collapse) and the so-called ‘great’ recession of 2008-09 share interesting similarities. Both the initial period of the 1930s depression—October 1929 through fall of 1930—and the roughly nine month period of October September 2008 through May 2009 appear very similar: A financial crash led in both cases to a dramatic follow on collapse of the real economy and employment.

But the 1929 event continues on, deepening for another four years, while the latter post 2009 event levels off in terms of economic decline. Thereafter, similar pro-business subsidy policies (1933-34) and (2009-11) lead to a similar period of stagnation. Obama continues the pro-business policies and stagnation, while Roosevelt breaks from the business policies and focuses on the New Deal to restore jobs, wages, and family incomes and recovery accelerates. Unlike Roosevelt who stimulates fiscal spending targeting household incomes, Obama focuses on further business tax cutting—i.e. another $1.7 trillion ($800 billion December 2010 plus another $900 billion in extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another two years—thereafter cutting social programs by $1 trillion in August 2011 to pay for the business tax cuts of 2010-11.

The policy comparisons associated with the recovery and non-recovery are clearly determinative of the comparative outcomes of 1935-37 and 2010-11, as are the comparisons of the business-focused strategies 1933-34 and 2009-10 that resulted in stagnant recoveries. But the political outcomes of the policy differences are especially divergent and interesting.

No less interesting are the political consequences for the Democratic Party. Roosevelt’s 1934 campaigning on the promise of a New Deal resulted in the Democrats sweeping Congress further than they did even in 1932. They gained seats in 1934 so that by 1935 they could push through the New Deal that Roosevelt proposed despite Republican opposition. In contrast, Obama retained, and even deepened, his pro-business programs before the 2010 midterms which resulted in the Democrats experiencing a massive loss in Congress in the 2010 midterm elections. Thereafter, the Democrats were stymied by a Republican House and Senate that blocked everything. Obama nonetheless kept reaching out and asking for a compromise with Republicans, but the Republican dog bit his hand with every overture.

Obama pleaded with American voters for one more chance in 2012 and they gave it to him. The outcome was more of the same of naïve requests for compromise, rejection, and a continued stagnation of the US economy. Republicans meanwhile also deepened their control of state and local level governorships, legislatures, and local judiciary throughout the Obama period.

The final consequence of all this was Trump in 2016 as the Obama Democrats promised more of the same in the 2016 presidential election. We know what happened after that.

PART 3:
The Next Crisis

The next financial crisis—and subsequent severe contraction of the real economy once again—is inevitable. And it is closer than many think, mesmerized by all the talk of a robust US economy that is benefiting the top 10% and not the rest. Why so soon?

The answer to that question will not be provided by mainstream economics. They are too busy heralding the current US economic expansion—which is being grossly over-estimated by GDP and other data and which fails to capture the fundamental forces underlying the US and global economy today, a global economy that is growing more fragile and thus prone to another major financial instability event.

The forces which led to the 2008 banking crash were associated with property bubbles (US and global) and the derivatives markets which allowed the bubbles to expand to unsustainable levels, derivatives which then propagated and accelerated the contagion across financial markets in general once the property bubbles began to collapse.

The 2008 crash was thus not simply a subprime housing crisis, as most economists declare. It was just as much, perhaps more so, a derivatives financial asset (MBS, CMBs, CDOs, CDSs, etc.) crisis.

More fundamentally than the appearance of a collapse in prices of subprime mortgages, and even derivatives thereafter, 2008 was a crisis of excess credit and debt that enabled the boom in subprimes and derivatives to escalate to bubble proportions.

But subprimes and derivatives were still the appearance, the symptoms of the crisis. Even more fundamentally causative, the 2008 crash had its most basic origins in the massive liquidity injections by the central banks, led by the US Fed, that has occurred from the mid-1980s to the present. The massive liquidity provided the cheap credit that fueled the excess debt that flowed into subprimes and derivatives by 2008. (And before than into tech stocks in 1998-2000, and before that into Asian currencies (1996-97), and into Japanese banks and financial markets and US junk bonds and savings & loans in the 1980s, and so forth).

Excessive debt accumulation is not the sole cause of financial crises, however. It is an enabling precondition. Enabling the debt in the first place is the excess liquidity and credit. That liquidity-credit-debt buildup is what occurred in the 1920s decade leading up to the October 1929 stock crash. It’s what occurred in the decades preceding 2008, especially accelerating after the escalation of financial derivatives in the 1990s.

Excessive debt creates the preconditions for the crisis, but the collapse of financial asset prices is what precipitates the crisis, as the excessive debt built up cannot be repaid (i.e. principal and interest payments ‘serviced). So if liquidity provides the debt fuel for the crisis, what sets off the conflagration is the collapse of prices that lights the flame.

The collapse of stock prices in October 1929 precipitated the subsequent four banking crashes of 1930-33. The collapse of property prices (residential subprime and also commercial) in 2006-07 precipitated the collapse of investment banks in 2008, thereafter quickly spilling over to other financial institutions (brokerages, insurance companies, mutual funds, auto finance companies, etc.) after the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank in September 2008.

Today in 2018 we have had a continued debt acceleration since 2008. As estimated by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Geneva, Switzerland, total US debt has risen from roughly $50 trillion in 2008 to $70 trillion at end of 2017. The majority of this is business debt, and especially non-financial business debt. That’s different from 2008 when it was centered on mortgage debt. It is also potentially more dangerous.

The US government since 2008 has also increased its federal debt by trillions, as it continued to borrow from investors worldwide in order to ‘finance’ and cut business-investor taxes and continue escalation of war spending since 2008. US household debt also rose further after 2008, as the lack of real wage and income growth over the post-2008 decade has resulted in $1.5 trillion student debt, $1 trillion plus in auto and in credit card debt, and $7-$8 trillion more in mortgage debt. Globally, according to the BIS, non-financial business debt has also been the major element responsible for accelerating global debt levels—especially borrowing in dollars from US banks and investors (i.e. dollarized debt) by emerging market economies, as well as business debt in China issued to maintain state owned enterprises and to finance local building construction.

So the debt driver has continued unabated as a problem since 2008, and has even accelerated. Financial asset bubbles have appeared worldwide as a result—not least of which is the current bubble in US stocks. This time it’s not real estate mortgages. It’s non-financial business and corporate debt that is the likely locus of the next crisis, whether in the US or globally or both.

Since 2008 US and global debt bubbles have been fueled once again—as in the 1920s and after 1985 by the excess liquidity provided by the US central bank, and other advanced economy central banks. The central bank, the Fed, alone has subsidized US banks and investors to the tune of $6 trillion from 2009 to 2016, as a consequence of its QE and near zero interest rate policies.

Since 2008, excessive and sustained low interest rates for investors and business have resulted in at least $1 trillion a year in corporate debt buildup, as corporate bond issues have accelerated due to ultra cheap Fed money. The easy money has allowed countless ‘junk’ grade US companies to survive the past decade, as they piled debt on debt to service old debt. Cheap money has also fueled corporate stock buybacks and dividend payouts to investors, which have been re-funneled back into stock prices and bubbles. So has the doubling and tripling of corporate profits from 2008 to 2017 enabled record buybacks and dividend distributions to shareholders.

Most recently, in 2017-18 the subsidization locus has shifted to Trump tax cuts that have artificially boosted US profits by a further 20% and more. As data has begun showing in 2018, most of that is now being re-plowed back into stock buybacks and dividend payouts—this year totaling more than $1.4 trillion, after six years of already $1 trillion a year in buybacks and payouts. That’s more than $7 trillion in distribution by corporate America in buybacks and dividends to its wealthy shareholders.

Where’s the mountain of money provided investors all gone? Certainly not in raising wages for workers. Certainly not in paying more taxes to government. It’s been diverted into financial markets in the US and globally—stocks, bonds, derivatives, currency, property, etc.—into mergers & acquisitions in the US, or just hoarded on balance sheets in anticipation of the next crisis approaching. Or sent into emerging markets (financial markets, mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, expanding production, etc.) when they were booming 2010-2016.

So where will the financial asset prices start collapsing in the many bubbles that have been created globally and in the US so far—and thus precipitating once again the next financial crisis? The BIS has been warning to watch US corporate junk bonds and leveraged loan markets. Watch out for the new derivatives replacing the old ‘subprimes’ and CDSs—i.e. the Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, passive index funds, dark pools, etc. Watch also the US stock markets responding to US political events, to a real trade war with China perhaps in 2019, a continuing collapse of emerging market economies and currencies, to a crisis in repayment of non-performing bank loans in Italy, India and elsewhere, or a tanking of the British economy in the wake of a ‘hard’ Brexit next spring, or Asian economies contracting in response to China slowing or its currency devaluing, or to any yet unseen development. Collapsing prices in any of the above may be the origin of the next financial asset contraction that will spread by contagion of derivatives across global markets. And the even larger debt magnitudes built up since 2008 may make the eventual price deflation even more rapid and deeper. And the new derivatives may accelerate the contagion across markets even faster.

The financial kindling is there. All it now takes is a spark to set it off. The next financial crisis is coming. The last decade, 2008-18, is eerily similar to the periods 1921-1929 and 1996-2007.

Only now it will come with the US challenging foreign competitors and former allies alike as it tries to retain its share of slowing global trade; with a US economy having devastated households economically for a decade; with a massive US federal debt now $21 trillion and going to $33 trillion due to Trump tax cuts; with a US crisis in retirement income, healthcare access and costs, and a crumbling education system; with an economy having created only low pay and mostly contingent service jobs; with a virtually destroyed union movement; with a big Pharma initiated opioid crisis killing more Americans per year than lost during the entire 9 year Vietnam war; with a culture allowing 40,000 of its citizens a year killed by guns and doing nothing; with an internal transformation and retreat of the two established political parties; and with a Trump and right wing radical movement ascendant and poised to move to the streets to defend itself.

Dr. Jack Rasmus
September 24, 2018

Dr. Rasmus is author of the forthcoming book ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, 2020. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. (For a more detailed analysis of the similarities and differences between 1929 and 2008, and how Roosevelt and Obama treated the crisis differently, read the except from Dr. Rasmus’s 2010 book, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’, Plutobooks, now posted on his website, http://kyklosproductions.com).

Two interviews earlier this week on the channels by which the virus is impacting the US economy: supply chains, demand, financial-banking, and currency valuations. The US is in an ‘economic coma’ and why Fed rate cuts and business tax cuts won’t have an economic recovery. The ‘dash for cash’ by business. Will fiscal government spending emerge by week end? My proposals for a first phase government program.

Listen to my interviews with ‘By Any Means Necessary‘ and ‘Critical Hour’ radio shows.

GO TO:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/radiosputnik/with-the-global-economy-poised-to-collap

AND GO TO:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SyA1QpdmDYBXbiK5DgyZpp7eXLiW73j5/view

During World War II the US lost about 500,000. The enemies were afar, offshore. Today the Coronavirus is projected to eventually kill at least twice that number Americans. An enemy within our very midst. An enemy that has succeeded in invading us everywhere.

The enemy has already effectively shut down much of our economy, is making millions jobless, threatening to sabotage our banking & financial system. The war-like destruction of our economy is already underway.

The response must be no less an economic war as World War II economic mobilization was a war to defend the lives of millions of our citizens.

But so far politicians and policy makers in Washington, of both parties, have not much of a necessary war response mentality.

US Politicians’ Initial Response

Trump at first even denied we were being invaded and the virus enemy was not even armed. He said it would go away by April. It was not dangerous. Meanwhile the enemy was laying its biological ‘minefields’ and the actual killing had begun. Trump even opened up our major city airports to the invader. It’s not by accident that the virus took its initial foothold in Washington State, California, and the big airport cities in the northeast of the country.

Democrat leaders in Congress were more somewhat more aware of the threat than Trump, but deficiently so as well. Their response to the economic war being waged upon us is to provide more unemployment insurance, free testing, and similar measures. While necessary, such measures were, and remain, also grossly insufficient. It’s like calling out the Coast Guard to stop a military assault landing by the virus on our shores. The Democrats now have a bill in Congress costing about $750 billion in economic war defense spending. Senate Republican leader McConnell delayed and opposed even that. Now the Republicans and Trump are proposing $800 billion. Those amounts are grossly insufficient. Both parties are still well behind the curve.

US politicians of both parties have been exhibiting a mentality similar to Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, who in 1938 returned from Munich and declared he had secured ‘peace in our time’ by his deal with Hitler. Well, US politicians think they have this virus ‘under control’ and that they can reverse the destruction of the US economy by passing minimal $700-$800 billion spending bill. They think they can control the virus and its devastating impact now underway on the US economy. They can’t until they understand this is a biological-economic war and the US must be mobilized similar to what it did in 1942.

Economic Pearl Harbor 2020

Today the US economy is experiencing something similar to an ‘economic pearl harbor’ attack of 1941. It is fighting a rear guard action, retreating to a ‘Bataan-like’ peninsula.

The US war mobilization effort in 1942 was unlike any ever implemented by any country in history. It was an all-out unprecedented and effective effort. America prevailed over enemies in World War II largely because it out-produced them by tenfold in equipment and material. Once those resources began flowing in 1942 and after, neither Imperial Japan nor Nazi Germany had a chance of winning.

Now we face an enemy, the virus, that has invaded every corner of the country. An enemy that will kill many more Americans that either Japan imperialists or the Nazis. And yet we are not mobilization the US economy to confront it. The politicians are addressing it piecemeal, incrementally, little by little, and are well behind the curve in terms of economic defense and response.

The virus is not only waging biological war against us; it is simultaneously waging economic war—to destroy the resources needed to ensure victory.

In 1940-41 the federal government of the US was spending about 15-16% of total US GDP. It was less than 20% of the economy. Within a year, by end of 1942 government spending made up 40% of US GDP. By 1944 it was for a moment 70% of GDP. In the post-1945 period, spending remained at about 20% a year until the present.

The US ‘economic war mobilization’ against the virus enemy must be raised immediately to 40% of GDP again!The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, has provided at minimum and within one week, more than $2.2 trillion. That’s to pre-emptively bail out the US banking system and ‘make whole’ thousands of private investors, many of whom are billionaires!

If the Federal Reserve can bail out the banks even before they fail to the tune of $2.2 trillion so far—why can’t Congress bail out Main St. and working class families with at least a similar amount? And that’s just to start. We’ll need another $1-$2 trillion before it’s over. That total will require a doubling of US government spending from 20% to 40% as a share of GDP.

Economic War Mobilization: How to Pay for It

Some may argue where can we get the money for that kind of spending. They similarly argued that in 1942. But the money was there. And it’s here today as well.

Here’s three ways the US financed and paid for economic war mobilization in 1942-45 and how we can do the same today:

Congress in 1942 passed a massive tax increase bill to help fund the war. It followed it up with more tax increase bills in 1943, 1944, and 1945. It then issued victory bonds to help finance further. The US Treasury can do the same today. The US can also run a budget deficit, to be repaid later—again as we did in World War II.

US politicians of both parties have run up annual budget deficits since 2000 and raised the total national debt as a result from $4T in 2000 to more than $22 trillion today. Trump’s 2018 and 2019 tax cuts—most of which are enjoyed by big corporations and investors—will mean the national debt will rise to at least $31 trillion by 2028, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But that’s before the current crisis and the collapsing of the US economy (and resulting tax revenue collapse). The US national debt by 2028 will be $35 trillion or more!

The point is most of this national debt, and the annual deficits that cause it, has been due to the massive tax handouts since 2000 for the rich and big corporations. Those tax cuts amount to no less than $15 trillion, passed by both political parties! It’s time to take that back and use the funds to help fight the real war against the virus now.

It’s also time for the Federal Reserve Bank and US Treasury to not just bail out the bankers, but help bail out Main St. Instead of just buying bonds held by the rich and investors at subsidized prices, it should raise additional money by issuing special Coronavirus War bonds, the proceeds from which must be earmarked for direct spending for Main St. only—i.e. for bailing out working and middle class families losing income, losing their homes and apartments, losing their autos, and preventing small businesses of 100 employees or less from going bankrupt. I’m not talking about loans, but about grants to working families and businesses. Big corporations can fend for themselves. They’ve built up massive profit war chests over the last decade. Ditto for big bankers. In any event, the central bank, the Federal Reserve, has already indicated it will spend trillions of dollars to make them whole.

Who will make working families, the middle class, and small businesses whole? Will Congress dribble out financial support, while the central bank opens up its free money fire hose to bankers and investors?

Make no mistake, we’re in a war against the virus. It will take economic wartime mobilization to win it. But if the politicians don’t wise up fast and adopt a war time mentality, millions more Americans will perish and the death toll will dwarf that of World War II.

By Dr. Jack Rasmus
March 17, 2020

Follow Dr. Rasmus on his blog, jackrasmus.com, as he writes on developing events related to this topic. And on his twitter feed, @drjackrasmus, where hourly changes in events are commented on as well.

Some have asked how much would my own Fiscal ‘Economic Recovery Program’ cost? It can’t be quantified exactly, as the impact on working families is spreading rapidly. But here’s some financing, administrating, and implementation principles associated with my proposal:

* First, the amount of financing applied in its first phase should be no less than the same amount that the Federal Reserve bank has already allocated to spend on the banks and investors. That’s $2.2 trillion in just the last week. So if we can spend that on the bankers, why can’t we allocated the same funds to bail out workers and the middle class. Index that $2.2T to whatever further increases the Fed spends on its pre-emptive bailout of bankers and investors already under way. If the Fed can ‘create $2.2 trillion’ out of thin air to give to bankers and investors, why can’t it do the same for Main St. and working families?

*Second, use some of the money to enroll those without health insurance or whose insurance will not cover the costs of health services, apart from the actual tests only, in the Medicare system. Introduce a one page sign up for Medicare online. Create a special ‘temporary’ membership category. Have healthcare providers bill Medicare for the tests costs to workers, and for all other related costs, as well as costs for those on unpaid medical leave or unemployed due to the economic effects of the virus on the economy-i.e. economic layoffs. Immediately enroll the 30 million uninsured. Voluntarily enroll the 87 million who are under-insured with massive deductibles, copays, with no dependents covered, etc. Immediately allocate funds from the $2.2 trillion to bail out Main St. and transfer the allocated funds to the Medicare-Social Security Trust Fund. And hire as many workers in the Medicare administration as needed.

*Third, instead of reimbursing companies for continuing paying wages to workers sent home on unpaid leave, or who are laid off because of the major economic impact that’s coming (there will be mass layoffs starting in May), why not have the government ‘hire’ the laid off for the duration of the crisis–which today Trump admitted will likely continue through August. Adapt the unemployment benefits system to make the payments to those so covered. This would be a 21st century, electronic administered ‘Works Progress Administration’ that provided 8 million government jobs to the unemployed.

The administrative apparatus is there already: Medicare and Unemployment Benefits. Why not use it. And make it clear it is the government that is providing their health care and employment protection–not the private employers or bankers who would otherwise cut them loose to scramble individually to protect them and their families.

*Fourth, immediately create a ‘Public Investment Corporation‘, funded and managed by the government (Federal, State & Local) to invest in alternative energy expansion and other climate crisis mitigation that would hire workers, since the current crisis will mean private business investment will collapse across the board and such much needed investment from the private sector will not be forthcoming for some time.

Let the Federal Reserve pre-emptively bail out its bankers and billionaire private investors! But if they can spend $2.2 trillion, then the government can, and should, pre-emptively bail out Main St. as well for no less!

Further economic measures will be needed to address the current US recession, and the increasing possibility of the recession morphing into another ‘great recession’ (or worse). But the above represents an initial phase of immediate fiscal spending response in the short run to restore incomes being devastated right now.

Dr. Jack Rasmus
March 16, 2020