A Zombie Economy Following Unfaithful Shepherds

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered (Jer 10:21).

The unfaithful shepherds…and the jackasses…

A big day up yesterday. The Dow rose 275 points. Gold dropped $55.

What’s the matter with investors? They should be selling gold AND stocks.

Why? Because we’re in a Great Correction. Not a boom. Not a recovery. Not anything except a Great Correction.

What does that mean? It means Mr. Market is correcting the errors of the past. We don’t know exactly which errors — it depends on how rambunctious he gets — but we know we won’t ever go back to where we were in 2007. We have to go on. Forward. Adelante, to give it a certain Latin sashay.

But where to?

C’mon…you don’t seriously think we know, do you? Of course, we don’t…nobody knows the future. But just wait until Mr. Obama gets on the TV screen. He’ll tell us where he wants us to go.

We’d like to tell him where to go too…

But, heck, he’s the POTUS. We’re just a lowly scribe…a miserable molder of mediocre memes. A financial Jeremiah…always warning…worrying…predicting doom and gloom.

But wait. Didn’t we tell you the bubble would pop in 2007? Didn’t we tell you that real estate would go down 30% or more? Didn’t we warn you to get out of stocks and into gold 10 years ago?

Sometimes right. Sometimes wrong. Always in doubt.

But what we see now is an unfaithful shepherd…

A central bank that has turned its back on the currency it is meant to protect…

A government that has betrayed the principles it was set up to defend…

And an economy that has turned into a zombie. It’s somewhere between alive and dead… Pretending to be a capitalist system…but a capitalist looking for a handout.

Consumer confidence numbers continue to sink…

Housing prices continue to fall…while housing starts bump along at depression levels…

More and more people are moving into long-stay motels…more and more are on food stamps.

An ABC poll tells us that Obama’s DIS-approval rating has increased to 60%…with most Americans convinced that his jobs proposal (to be announced today) will not work.

The output gap — roughly the difference between what the economy should produce and what it actually does produce — is at 7%. It’s never been this high at this stage of the business cycle.

Had enough?

Well, it gets worse. Because the effect of the unfaithful shepherds’ bailouts has been to shift more and more wealth to the people who were wealthiest already. Business profits — especially in the financial sector — soared. Wages fell.

And now, even old people can’t pay their mortgages…so they’re stuck in jobs, leaving the young with nothing to do. The youth unemployment rate is one in four; it’s a wonder they are aren’t burning cars and rampaging through cities. But they live in the suburbs and probably can’t afford the bus fare to get into town.

This is becoming a dangerous situation. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains:

The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics.

During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.

Starting in the late 1970s, the middle class began to weaken… The middle class nonetheless continued to spend, at first enabled by the flow of women into the work force. (In the 1960s only 12 percent of married women with young children were working for pay; by the late 1990s, 55 percent were.) When that way of life stopped generating enough income, Americans went deeper into debt. From the late 1990s to 2007, the typical household debt grew by a third. As long as housing values continued to rise it seemed a painless way to get additional money.

Eventually, of course, the bubble burst. That ended the middle class’s remarkable ability to keep spending in the face of near stagnant wages. The puzzle is why so little has been done in the last 40 years to help deal with the subversion of the economic power of the middle class. With the continued gains from economic growth, the nation could have enabled more people to become problem solvers and innovators — through early childhood education, better public schools, expanded access to higher education and more efficient public transportation.

Of course, Reich goes on to misunderstand everything. He thinks the rich got richer because government was not ambitious enough. The real problem was that the rich were able to use ambitious, activist government to their own ends.

The unfaithful shepherds rigged the game in their favor.

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning