Sunday, September 12, 2010

Measuring the Depths and Delay

The following table from a paper by Steven Gjerstad and Vernon L. Smith shows the severity of the current Great Recession and its slowness in recovery compared to other post-WWII recession:

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The authors warn that the recovery from this recession will be exceedingly weak:
The recent recession differs from other post-war recessions in two important respects: it has seriously disrupted the financial system, and it has already exhibited strong resilience to monetary stimulus. Yet, as we demonstrate in this paper, the recent recession shares two important features with other post-war recessions: most recessions originate in a pronounced downturn in expenditures on new single-family and multi-family housing units, and the housing sector is the primary transmission channel for monetary policy in both downturns and recoveries. We argue that there are three reasons this recession differs from past recessions. Excessive mortgage credit – augmented by large foreign capital inflows – created a house price bubble. When it collapsed, many households and financial firms were left burdened with extreme balance sheet problems. Consequently, accommodative monetary policy has had a muted impact on households that seek to de-leverage rather than borrow for new housing assets. Moreover, in a saturated housing market, residential construction, which has led all sustained post-war recoveries, has also been suppressed.
This is not good news for the 14 million unemployed or the millions of houses still to undergo foreclosure. The tragedy is that the Republicans only show eagerness to help banks and businesses, they have no interest in the "little people". And, tragically, Obama has not challenged them on this issue, he hasn't shamed them, and he hasn't gone to the American people to try to get a mandate to overcome Republican obstructionism.

I find it odd that Obama came into office wanting to style himself on Lincoln. He should have looked to FDR. The US desperately needs a "new deal" and a strong personality to run roughshod over obstructionists in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

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