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11/23/2008
IS ALL THE ECONOMIC DOOM AND GLOOM JUSTIFIED?

If you’ve been reading a lot about the economic situation here and around the world, you can’t help but be struck by how terrible the future looks to a lot of “experts.”

Is this a function of the media realizing that apocalyptic news sells and less dire forecasts are given short shrift? Or is there really a consensus that we are in for horrible times?

I honestly don’t know enough to say one way or another. Here at home, the massive trouble that CITI is in promises to give us the biggest bailout yet. And there are some “experts” saying that the entire financial industry of the United States will soon be nationalized:

It’s not preferable, but all major U.S. financial companies will eventually be under government control because the alternative is so much worse, Hugh Hendry, chief investment officer at hedge fund Eclectica Asset Management, said Friday.

“All financials will be owned by the U.S. government in a year,” Hendry said. “I bet you.”

Nationalizations take dramatic losses from the private sector and places them on the larger balance sheet of the public sector, he said.

“It’s not good,” but society is vulnerable and society is going to have to intervene, Hendry said.

I don’t know Mr. Hendry from Adam but CNBC thinks enough of him to quote his prediction and include a video of his remarks. Does that make him an expert? Got me.

And its even worse overseas - if you believe the foreign press. Iceland is all but bankrupt, the product of their state bank going belly up. But what about Great Britain?

The scale of our problems has still not been understood. In essence the domestic banks are largely bust. The Government’s £500 billion bailout plan is primarily designed not to keep banks lending to small firms and to homebuyers but to prevent an unimaginable financial calamity.

Banks provide the very foundations and plumbing of the entire economy. A failure of confidence in them could still bring the entire capitalist edifice tumbling down.

It suits ministers, however, to maintain the bogus claim that the bailout is about sustaining bank lending. True, that would be a helpful side-effect, but is not the main purpose. Indeed, a gentle and gradual reduction in the indebtedness of individuals and companies is still needed.

At the risk of hyperbole, we should not be worrying about whether this is going to be a thin Christmas for retailers (it is), but whether Britain and the West are about to plunge into a years-long economic Dark Age - complete with mass unemployment and social unrest.

I don’t think you can get more depressing than that. But how true is it? The Times is a respected publication and all we have to go on if we want to glean the truth out of all this is the reputation of the media outlet from which we are getting this information.

No one denies that there is a crisis. No one is underestimating the potential for catastrophe. My problem - our problem - is that in this, a time when honest appraisals of the situation are needed, we have little or no confidence that our newspapers, radio programs, or the cable newsnets are delivering what they are supposed to be giving us; the facts of the situation and not trying to scare us into buying their product or watching their programs by hyping the bad news.

I think things are as bad as many are saying. But then we get a piece like this from Daniel Gross at Slate.com:

All this historically inaccurate nostalgia can occasionally make you want to clock somebody with one of the three volumes of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s history of the New Deal. The credit debacle of 2008 and the Great Depression may have similar origins: Both got going when financial crisis led to a reduction in consumer demand. But the two phenomena differ substantially. Instead of workers with 5 o’clock shadows asking, “Brother, can you spare a dime?” we have clean-shaven financial-services executives asking congressmen if they can spare $100 billion. More substantively, the economic trauma the nation suffered in the 1930s makes today’s woes look like a flesh wound.

“By the afternoon of March 3, scarcely a bank in the country was open to do business,” FDR said in his March 12, 1933, fireside chat (now available on a very cool podcast at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Web site). In 1933, some 4,000 commercial banks failed, causing depositors to take huge losses. (There was no FDIC back then.) The recession that started in August 1929 lasted for a grinding 43 months, during which unemployment soared to 25 percent and national income was cut in half. By contrast, through mid-November 2008, only 19 banks had failed. The Federal Reserve last week said it expects unemployment to top out at 7.6 percent in 2009. Economists surveyed by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank believe the recession, which started in April 2008, will be over by next summer. (Of course, back in January the same guys forecast that the economy would grow nicely in 2008 and 2009.) But don’t take it from me. Take it from this year’s Nobel laureate in economics. “The world economy is not in depression,” Paul Krugman writes in his just-reissued book The Return of Depression Economics. “It probably won’t fall into depression, despite the magnitude of the current crisis (although I wish I was completely sure about that).”

Is Gross just more levelheaded than the others? He makes a convincing case but so do some of those predicting Armageddon.

I believe this is a crisis of confidence in our media - a result of many years of being conditioned by their biases, by their laziness to remove those biases, and by the nature of the news business itself and what it has become. The left likes to talk about the “corporate media” but it’s actually worse than that. Over the last 30 years, there has been a consolidation of media outlets into gigantic conglomerates while the actual number of independent media channels has dropped precipitously.

It isn’t that they’re “corporate” that makes them suspect, or more accurately, not trustworthy. It is that there are so few alternatives out there. I have no doubt that most publications and TV networks actually make an effort to deliver the news as accurately as they are able - given constraints about needing to turn a profit and stand out from the crowd. But that doesn’t change some basic facts. An empire like Rupert Murdochs’ was unthinkable 30 years ago. Every town over 50,000 or so used to have 2 or even 3 newspapers published daily. (50 years ago it was 4 or 5 dailies). If you want to listen to the radio today, you have 3 or 4 huge companies that own the overwhelming majority of popular local stations. Television has a handful of owners despite hundreds of stations.

No wonder the news sounds so much the same.

That doesn’t solve our problem of knowing who to believe, who to trust in this crisis. I suppose we have to make an effort to get as much information as we can and use our own best judgment as to what we should take away from each news or opinion article we read. This is probably good advice as it relates to any news we choose to digest be it on the internet or through some other media outlet.

But somehow, I can’t escape the feeling that our media is letting us down in this crisis and that I am probably not the only one disappointed in their performance so far.

This blog post originally appears at The American Thinker 

By: Rick Moran at 12:29 pm
12 Responses to “IS ALL THE ECONOMIC DOOM AND GLOOM JUSTIFIED?”
  1. 1
    Dennis D Said:
    2:00 pm 

    The motivation is to portray a miserable situation that only a messiah could solve. The economy will improve on its OWN and Obama will take credit for an economic miracle just in time for election 2012..

  2. 2
    michael reynolds Said:
    2:47 pm 

    I’ve been thinking along the same lines as you, Rick. I have no factual basis, no evidence, just a feeling that while this is all pretty damn bad, it’s not as bad as all that. I have a hard time seeing hobos with iPhones.

    Although, the possibility of an iBindle is certainly intriguing. It’ll sell for $300 the first month, $150 the second month and be replaced entirely in the sixth month by a new iBindle 3G.

  3. 3
    Nessus Said:
    3:01 pm 

    Exactly as Dennis D said…..the media always, repeat, always, exaggerates downturns when a repub is in the White House and once a dem gets elected……magically, things are quite as bad as predicted and things get better.

    Anyone who still thinks a president has much sway over the economy should ask themselves, if presidents did influence the economy greatly, then why we would ever have a downturn, much less in an election year?

    The Messiah with a Thin Resume will solve our problems. Only Barry The Redeemer can save us.

  4. 4
    Nagarajan Sivakumar Said:
    7:08 pm 

    Rick,
    If I may add something here, the sense of doom and gloom is also meant to instill three things.

    a. Fundamental doubts about a free market economy. The MSM screams, “Look at these EVIL corporate greedy fatcat sleazbags - if not for their greed, we wouldnt be in this predicament”

    Dont look at those clueless rubes who bought homes that they could not afford and WORSE did not even KNOW that they could not afford it until the adjustable rate mortgages …ahem..adjusted.

    b. The need for more Government regulation - that is the magic shibboleth for the media - if only they were more rules !!

    Actually, there is a need for more transparency than more regulations themselves. But dont tell it to those MSM guys OR the dogmatic free marketers who think that they cannot possibly be wrong.

    c. If things look bad still in 2012 when Obama is running for re-election, they can always say that they expected this to go for a long long time. Dont you remember what we said 4 years back would be what the MSM would cry.

    If the economy does get better, they could always get back in the tank as to how Obama’s BRILLIANCE took us out of a long global depression !!!

    Is it any wonder most conservatives have given up on the MSM ? Their bias and agenda is so pukingly transparent.

  5. 5
    Lars Said:
    7:15 pm 

    How can Obama and Co. get their marxist agenda on the fast track? With gloom and Doom and fear. The media would normally have told us by now that things were looking up now that we got rid of the Republican and will be great starting Jan 20,’09. However, if things are looking terrible, and only “bold” actions by BO can save us, it gives the new socialists an opportunity to fast track their agenda. Therefore, the media continues to beat the drums of fear.

  6. 6
    ajacksonian Said:
    9:57 pm 

    ‘“It’s not good,” but society is vulnerable and society is going to have to intervene, Hendry said.’ - Hugh Hendry, 2008

    Ahhh… how quickly they forget…

    “Some writers have so confounded society with government,
    as to leave little or no distinction between them;
    whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
    Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
    the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
    the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
    encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
    The first a patron, the last a punisher.”
    -Thomas Paine, Common Sense 1776

    When society bails out something, it is private individuals doing that.

    When the public bails out something, that is government.

    How quickly we do forget and give to our punisher the good things to do, so that we may be punished to only be good… which is an extreme evil worse than all others as it removes the meaning of good. But then wanting to bail them out is good, giving it to government to do is wicked.

    So simple.

    So easy to forget.

  7. 7
    BVO Said:
    10:17 pm 

    A good portion of this “crisis” is government forced or fabricated. Notice that “capitalism” has become the new BusHitler. They are laying the groundwork for Communist revolution.

    See you all in re-education.

  8. 8
    Archon Said:
    1:31 am 

    When it comes to understanding a crisis, I tend to have more respect for the analyses and forecasts of those who were right before the event and less for those who were wrong.

    For example, when it comes to understanding global Islamic terrorism, I have more regard for the analyses of Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson than for those of John Esposito and Larry Johnson. Many of us recall what each of the four said about Islamic terrorism before 9/11.

    On the current economic crisis I pay more heed to the analyses of Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff, Satyajit Das, Marc Faber, and Meredith Whitney - each of whom, in their own way, predicted the crisis - than Larry Kudlow, Jim Cramer, Ben Stein, Barney Frank, and Alan Greenspan.

    That doesn’t mean that those who were right are now sages who are right about everything. And they may have very different future forecasts and prescriptions on how to address the crisis. For example, Roubini is liberal who likes Obama and Schiff was an advisor to Ron Paul, and they have very different policy suggestions. But I respect what both have to say.

  9. 9
    michael reynolds Said:
    9:55 am 

    You know, commentors, the fact that it isn’t 1929 does not mean this is phony. This is a real, serious, dangerous mess. To say it’s not 1929 is like saying it’s not World War 2. That doesn’t mean it’s not Vietnam or Korea. It’s not binary: the choice is not between a) end of the world or b) phony media-generated crisis.

  10. 10
    EW Said:
    10:59 am 

    The illuminati MSM obviously like drama.. and that they’re getting (or creating) with this recession. I think it’s been less than a year. We need to give capitalism a chance to do its thing. If things continue to get worse at the rater they have been, THEN let’s come up with a new solution.. but give time for cycles to run their course before then.

  11. 11
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    4:26 am 

    Nagarajan Sivakumar,

    “Dont look at those clueless rubes who bought homes that they could not afford and WORSE did not even KNOW that they could not afford it until the adjustable rate mortgages …ahem..adjusted.”

    No Nagarajan, I blame the smart people who lent them the money and KNEW they wouldn’t be able to afford it. Destroying other peoples wealth, all in the name of making a few bucks.

    The banks open their doors with stupid lending policies and you expect me to feel sorry for them when people line up and take the ‘free’ money? Blame the rubes for being stupid? Whatever. They walk away, while the corporate banks destroyed more wealth than is possible to comprehend. This IS the lenders fault. They could have stopped it. I don’t blame the rubes for taking the money because, well, they’re rubes.

    “Is it any wonder most conservatives have given up on the MSM ? Their bias and agenda is so pukingly transparent.”

    Oh, hang on, let me just hop on over any other blog in existence, left or right, and read the exact same pissing and moaning about the MSM.

    Sorry, but there’s no such thing as conservatism anymore. It’s dead. The Republicans destroyed it and now look what we’ve got.

  12. 12
    DoorHold Said:
    2:17 pm 

    michael reynolds Said: “You know, commentors, the fact that it isn’t 1929 does not mean this is phony. This is a real, serious, dangerous mess. …”

    What, exactly, has changed in the American economy to cause such an explosion of despair? Not what’s happening at the moment (one bank or another, whatever), what caused such a widespread meltdown?

    Chuck Tucson Said: “… Sorry, but there’s no such thing as conservatism anymore. It’s dead. The Republicans destroyed it and now look what we’ve got.”

    The idea’s alive, we just can’t find anybody willing to apply it. :(

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