Our prosperity stands on the precipice. Concerned Americans demand an explanation of how this happened and leadership that will walk us back from the cliff. But in the White House and along the campaign trail, the purported leaders fail to recognize or refuse to acknowledge the clear and present threat to our economy: the Great Deflation.
The failure to differentiate between an economic recession and this Great Deflation will cause an economically doomed generation.
But this need not happen. The strength of our economy — its capacity to generate employment, opportunity, and growth — is determined by the quality of its factories and its technology and innovation; by the depth and freedom of its marketplace; and by the ingenuity and efforts of its people. By these measures, we Americans should continue to have the strongest economy in history, and one which continues to grow.
So while our economic challenges are daunting, they can be surmounted. It is only a question of our will to take action.
The Crux of Our Problem
For many years, a cancer grew in our economy — a rapid rise in government spending and debt; an explosion of debt in our banking system spawned by irresponsible leveraging and fueled by in-flows of savings from China and elsewhere; and a rapid rise in home-mortgage debt driven by unsustainable increases in home prices wrought by a massive increase in leverage and lending by government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and by unscrupulous lending practices. In 2008, this debt cancer decimated our financial system.
Panicking amid this crisis, Washington got it wrong. Instead of reining in government spending, requiring banks to reduce their indebtedness, and providing a plan to help struggling homeowners cope with their debt, Washington made matters worse by:
1. Using taxpayer money to bail out the managers, shareholders, and creditors of banks, and not requiring the failed, bailed-out banks to restructure to reduce their indebtedness. Washington passed TARP to protect bank bondholders and shareholders from suffering losses — and used your money and the money printed by the Federal Reserve to do it. As a result, while bank bondholders and shareholders were made whole (by the taxpayer), the banks remain over-indebted and cannot lend to new businesses. In fact, since 2008 we have been living through the very first period in modern American history in which banks have actually reduced the amount of money they lend. Now, small businesses, innovators, and workers — the primary job generators — lack sufficient access to credit to finance economic expansion and job creation.
2. Massively expanding the federal government’s size and spending on misguided and failed “fiscal stimulus.” In consequence, ratings agencies have downgraded the once premier “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. Now, it will cost our government much more to borrow money to pay its bills. This is a national disgrace, and it will cost us dearly if we do not fully restore our credit rating.
3. Ignoring the problems created by massive home foreclosures. These include the devastating impact on families who lost their homes, falling home values in neighborhoods blighted by foreclosures, and the negative impact on the economy of families forced to drastically reduce their purchases of goods and services from our producers.
4. Ignoring our trade deficit with Communist China and its predatory, mercantilist trade practices — including selling us subsidized manufactured goods and, instead of buying our goods, hoarding our money and lending it to our government and our banks.
5. Engaging in a policy of “quantitative easing.” While we are in a period of “debt-deflation” — a vicious circle of falling asset prices begetting debt defaults, and requirements for more collateral on loans begetting yet further asset-price declines — the Federal Reserve’s policy of monetary expansion has not spurred the economy and risks eventually igniting inflation, with all of its ill effects.