Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great recession worse than any post WWII downturn



Voters' anxiety over the state of the economy continues to rise.This anxiety is warranted. The chart below compares the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) since the beginning of the current recession in 2008 to previous recessions. GDP is the broadest measure of economic performance, tracking the market value of all goods and services produced in the United States.


The most recent recession is notable not just for the severity of economic contraction but also the length of decline. As the figure shows, in the nine previous recessions on record, by seven quarters after the official start of the recession the economy had actually grown by an average of 4% compared to its pre-recession peak.

However, seven quarters after the current recession began, the economy remains 3.2% smaller than its pre-recession peak. This is true even though the third quarter of 2009 saw the first positive growth in GDP in a year. Despite the GDP uptick in the most recent quarter, the current recession remains the worst performer on record this long after a business cycle peak. The economy failed to recover its pre-recession peak after seven quarters only once before, following the 1973 recession.

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In light of these numbers, Obama's plan to do a pay as you go budget looks like bad economics. Do you agree? Is this 1937 revisted and where is the help for those without jobs and no unemployment compensation? Where is a WPA type program or even Nixon's negative income tax proposal when we need it? Jim Carpenter, jcmilwgr@yahoo.com

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What I find infuriating is that the narrative isn't being woven by Democrats at the national level about how and why we got here.

This isn't just another downturn, it's not just a recession -- "recession" and "depression" being terms of science here, not so much art. This is an expose of the kind of unbridled, unfettered, market fundamentalist, neoliberal capitalism that screws everyone but the richest and most powerful.

There are many strands to weave together here to tell the story. But Obama won't touch it right now. Probably never will. Neither will hardly any of the national-level Democratic 'leaders'. Sure, we might get some warmed-over policy proposals to deal with some symptomatic crises in a way that won't really address but might mollify a few pundits. They might even acknowledge the depth of the hardship for working people -- though it will be in the context of the last 20 months, not the last 20 years.

This crisis is not a recession to be recovered from -- it's a turning point. Either we fix the structural problems and get our world set right; or we slam on the accelerator toward the cliff.

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