It seems to me, economists have been predicting three plus percent GDP growth since Obama came into office, and all their predictions have been wrong. The US GDP has stagnated for over five years despite the huge recession we were in when Obama came into office. Today, the Federal Reserve danced around the obvious, and all the economists Bloomberg radio interviewed, provided the dance partners. Yellen claimed the economy will achieve liftoff once we get by this latest slow patch and will exceed long term economic output… next year. This, despite all the previous predictions that have said the same thing, and have been wrong. I guess if they predict it enough, eventually it will come true, like if I predict a solid gold meteor will land on my property making me rich… long enough, it will happen. At some point however, this ceases to be a prediction, and becomes instead wishful thinking.
Typically, immediately after a recession economic activity rebounds strongly for a year or two, but the recovery from the 2008 recession didn’t. The reason economies typically rebound strongly after a recession is due to the fact that the units of production become cheap. Labor rates go down, interests rates plummet along with the cost of plant and equipment. The destruction of outmoded firms drives down the costs. Lower costs of the means of production give those with new ideas, the ability to implement those ideas, resulting in the virtuous cycle of economic growth. This is the creation part of creative destruction.
This last recession had it’s share of what, at he time, were called “Vee shapers.” They were largely those economists in Obama’s political camp, who eschew the Schumpeter model of the economic cycle, creative destruction, and instead favor the Keynesian, aggregate supply aggregate demand model. They thought that since interest rates had been so suppressed by the Federal reserve, government was spending such tremendous amounts of money, in the form of stimulus, and their man was in, demand would go up and the economy would rebound very strongly, resulting in a V shaped recovery. We found that they were wrong… it was more of an L shaped recovery.
The economy dropped like a cow chip. Instead of rebounding it stagnated despite the record amount of stimulus. Trillions of dollars were spent by the government, what is called fiscal tailwinds, spending that drove up aggregate demand, but did nothing for the average man and woman. Interest rates have been extraordinary low for half a decade now with essentially no real GDP growth to show for it. Inflation has been alarmingly low as well despite the record monetizing of government debt that the Federal Reserve has done. Pimco has named the recovery, or lack of one, the “New Normal,” now the term has become the “New Neutral,” but by any name a skunk is a skunk. The labor participation rate has fallen off the table, GDP growth hasn’t even reached normal levels, let alone takeoff velocity, and the Federal Reserve along with most of the central banks of the developed countries have followed along and monetized their debt… to no avail.
The one exception is Britain who instead embarked on a policy of fiscal austerity. Economists the world over warned that Britain would suffer economic Armageddon as a result. They were wrong. Today Britain and Germany are the only developed countries that are experiencing real economic growth at all. Since their economies are too small to be the engine of the world’s economy, the world is left with America as the little engine, that couldn’t. The developing countries have stalled as well due to the lack of an engine pulling the train.
What everyone in the economic community are dancing around, and trying their best to ignore, is the tsunami of regulation that washed over the US economy in 2008-2009. That tidal wave of regulation continues flowing in to this day. Obama care was a thousand page law, one that has fluffed up to tens of thousands of pages of arcane regulation, hindering economic growth in a myriad of ways. It has driven up the cost of labor dramatically, without a penny of it going to workers. That increase in the cost of labor is still rising even today from Obama care! The incentives of that single piece of legislation has directly resulted in lower wages, terrific job losses and a cost of labor that is unpredictable. Dodd Frank was meant to eliminate the problem of too big to fail but has made that problem even more intractable than ever. It is driving small banks out of business, and pushing large banks to get larger, exacerbating too big to fail. In short Dodd Frank has failed. Environmental regulation has skyrocketed under this administration. But these are only the top waves of the tsunami.
These problems that regulation has created cannot be worked through with low interest rates, we have had a low interest rate policy for 5 years, and it has failed. No amount of new regulation can solve the problem of too much regulation, it’s like trying to heal a burn, by burning yourself more. The long term unemployed will not be solved by importing millions of low skilled labor, sopping up the few jobs that are still available, and raising the minimum wage will only drive down the demand for those low skilled jobs in the first place. Dancing is all well and good, but when the elite dance around the problems they created, simply to protect a President and theory they are in love with, all of us suffer. Any alcoholic can tell you, the only way to solve a problem is to recognize it, then roll up your sleeves and actually fix it. Unfortunately, that is not on the Federal Reserve’s dance card.