Thursday, November 13, 2008

How not to freak out over the economy . . .

If you're like me, every time you happen to catch a brief glimpse of economic news you experience mind-numbing pangs of existential angst, followed inevitably by the cosmic ringing of the words: "Holy shit . . . we are screwed." This is almost always, in my experience, followed by a desire for a beer . . . or six.

And indeed we are . . . screwed. Witness the disturbing collapses in the Baltic Dry Index. I hadn't heard of this little market index before last week, but it's essentially a very good indicator of the price of shipping goods overseas. The problem is that the Baltic Dry Index has lost 98% of its value over the last couple of weeks. That's right, it is nearly impossible to make money by shipping goods overseas right now. No one in their right mind, in the current climate, would want to make money shipping goods overseas. And if no one is shipping goods . . . uh . . . well . . . just think about that.

Further on in the hyperlink above, is a chart showing the size of the assets held by the federal reserve, over the last ten years. It looks like a backwards 'L'.

We got a problem, ladies and gentlemen . . . a big . . . big problem.

But luckily, there's smart people out there who have a plan. Our economy is nosediving, yes, but there's still time to fix this disaster before it's a full-on on, in-your-face Depression. Thank God for Alternet.org.
How to End the Recession

By Robert Pollin, The Nation via Alternet.org. Posted November 13, 2008.

A large-scale stimulus program is the only action that can possibly do the job.

"A Green Public-Investment Stimulus

Recessions create widespread human suffering. Minimizing the suffering has to be the top priority in fighting the recession. This means expanding unemployment benefits and food stamps to counteract the income losses of unemployed workers and the poor. By stabilizing the pocketbooks of distressed households, these measures also help people pay their mortgages and pump money into consumer markets.

Beyond this, the stimulus program should be designed to meet three additional criteria. First, we have to generate the largest possible employment boost for a given level of new government spending. Second, the spending targets should be in areas that strengthen the economy in the long run, not just through a short-term money injection. And finally, despite the recession, we do not have the luxury of delaying the fight against global warming.

To further all these goals we need a green public-investment stimulus. It would defend state-level health and education projects against budget cuts; finance long-delayed upgrades for our roads, bridges, railroads and water management systems; and underwrite investments in energy efficiency -- including building retrofits and public transportation -- as well as new wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies."
Hmmm, a giant green energy investment designed to not only rebuild our job base, but also to wean us off of oil, and foreign oil?

I like the sound of that. Hopefully some of the grown-ups we've just put in Washington will get on the ball, and get behind a plan like this.

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