James Galbraith Says, “A Truly Extraordinary Slump” – No Recovery

Disappointing reports this week on housing starts and foreclosures, as well as the index of leading economic indicators, have cast a bit of a pall on the “robust recovery” story, putting a crimp in the stock market’s ascent in the process.University of Texas professor James Galbraith was never a believer in the V-shaped recovery and says it’s going to take a very long time for the U.S. to recover from a “truly extraordinary slump.”What the optimists are missing is the impact the housing bust is having on both American’s ability to borrow and banks willingness to lend. The resulting credit contraction will prevent this recovery from following the path of those following prior post-war recessions, he says.”There’s no question the U.S. economy has stabilized but [it] remains very weak and will likely continue to be weak,” Galbraith says. “There’s very little sign the benefits that are being felt on Wall Street will be felt in the broader country anytime soon.”Galbraith predicts the unemployment rate will continue to rise into 2010 and decline “very slowly” thereafter. The U.S. economy needs “substantially greater policy intervention,” he says, focused on the following: * Housing Woes: As of Sept. 30, over 14% of American homeowners with a mortgage are either behind on payments or in foreclosure, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. Those figures suggest the real inventory of homes for sale is much bigger than the “official” 8-month supply, as The WSJ reports. The government must do more to prevent foreclosures, Galbraith says. * Smart Jobs: Beyond merely putting people to work, Galbraith seeks policies that would both “create employment and set a strategic direction for the economy,” most notably in the area of renewable energy. * Boomer Blues: With millions of Baby Boomers at or near retirement age, Galbraith advocates aid for new retirees, “so the demographic transition goes more smoothly than it otherwise would. “In sum, Galbraith still says we need a second stimulus package, as we’ll discuss in more detail in a forthcoming segment.

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Niall Ferguson says, U.S. Empire in Decline and on Collision Course with China

The U.S. is an empire in decline, according to Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money.”People have predicted the end of America in the past and been wrong,” Ferguson concedes. “But let’s face it: If you’re trying to borrow $9 trillion to save your financial system…and already half your public debt held by foreigners, it’s not really the conduct of rising empires, is it?”Given its massive deficits and overseas military adventures, America today is similar to the Spanish Empire in the 17th century and Britain’s in the 20th, he says. “Excessive debt is usually a predictor of subsequent trouble.”Putting a finer point on it, Ferguson says America today is comparable to Britain circa 1900: a dominant empire underestimating the rise of a new power. In Britain’s case back then it was Germany; in America’s case today, it’s China.”When China’s economy is equal in size to that of the U.S., which could come as early as 2027…it means China becomes not only a major economic competitor – it’s that already, it then becomes a diplomatic competitor and a military competitor,” the history professor declares.The most obvious sign of this is China’s major naval construction program, featuring next generation submarines and up to three aircraft carriers, Ferguson says. “There’s no other way of interpreting this than as a challenge to the hegemony of the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region.”As to analysts like Stratfor’s George Friedman, who downplay China’s naval ambitions, Ferguson notes British experts – including Winston Churchill – were similarly complacent about Germany at the dawn of the 20th century.”I’m not predicting World War III but we have to recognize…China is becoming more assertive, a rival not a partner,” he says, adding that China’s navy doesn’t have to be as large as America’s to pose a problem. “They don’t have to have an equally large navy, just big enough to pose a strategic threat [and] cause trouble” for the U.S. Navy.

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