Don't Bet on a Recovery

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"The 'remedies" are postponing, perhaps indefinitely, a true recovery"

It is astounding how many economists, government officials, and Wall Street strategists construe the current economic conditions as evidence of a bonafide recovery. It is a testament to the power of the rose-colored glasses our nation's leading universities hand out that such a feeling could be widely held despite the clear and present danger that compounds daily. The myopia leads us to enact policies that actually exacerbate our problems. The "remedies" are postponing, perhaps indefinitely, a true recovery.

The oracles who have described this imminent recovery do so based on their conviction that consumer spending is slowly returning to pre-recession levels. New data released seems to support this view, with consumer spending up 0.5% in January.

However, missing from their analysis is any plausible explanation as to why consumers will be able to sustain such spending given the plunge in income and credit, and the lack of available savings. The same January spending report showed that personal income increased by only 0.1%, while the savings rate slowed to the smallest since 2008.

I would challenge those who fantasize about a consumer-led recovery to describe where the spending money will come from. Most consumers are tapped out, millions are unemployed and home equity has been wiped out. The only reasonable thing for them to do is to pay down debt and sock away as much money as possible to rebuild their savings.

Beyond the question of "how" the spending could be achieved, is the deeper question of "why" such activity should be sought at all. Excessive spending, fueled by an insane housing bubble and catalyzed by reckless monetary and fiscal policy, was the reason that our current recession became unavoidable. Why would we want to go down that road again?

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