Washington Babylon — September 17, 2008, 11:07 am

How bad is the economy? Don’t jump, but “We’re going to have to redefine what we mean by normal growth”

The government bails out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG. Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt and Merrill Lynch is sold. Stocks are tanking with the Dow Jones down by 22 percent over the last year.

How bad is the overall economy, and what’s coming next? I had a brief conversation about those questions today with Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, whose interview here last fall proved highly prescient. Here’s what he said:

We’re deflating the economy, like we deflated it during the 1920s. In the end we’ll be okay, but there’s going to be a lot of collateral damage. In terms of big numbers, trillions of dollars has been taken out of the economy–it’s gone–and major banks are in a very precarious situation. Retailers are in full retreat and you’re going to see a lot of bankruptcies, because discretionary spending, anything having to do with consumption, is going to drop sharply.

Still, people should not panic. The Treasury is going to stand behind the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which insures individual deposits up to $100,000 and IRAs up to $250,000. But if you’re a high-income individual or a small- or medium-sized business owner with large cash balances, you’re going to have to be sensitive to keeping balances above the insured limit. If you’re above that limit, you’re an unsecured creditor of the bank. People have not had to think about that for a long time.

We’re going to have a low-growth scenario for a few years, and we’re going to have to redefine what we mean by “normal growth.” The whole country has gone through a speculative mania, in terms of real estate, the stock market, and risk, and when we come out of it we’re going to have a typical growth rate that’s lower than what we’re used to.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“In Thunupa’s footsteps grew a miraculous plant that could withstand drought, cold, and even salt, and still produce a nutritious grain.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
Article
A Study in Sherlock·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is central to the pleasure of the Sherlock Holmes stories that they invite play, and that they were never meant to be taken seriously.”
Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele
Post
My Top 5 Metal Albums and Their Poetic Counterparts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“1. Death, The Sound of Perseverance (Nuclear Blast, 1998)”
Photograph (detail) by Peter Beste
Article
Found Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I have spent my entire adult existence in a recession. Like most people I talk to, I assume the forces that control the market are at best random and at worst rigged. The auction shows only confirm that suspicion.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Post
The School of Permanent Revolución·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The University of Venezuela has provided a consistent counterweight to governmental authority, but it has also reliably produced the elite of whatever group replaced the status quo.”
Photograph © Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez

Percentage of non-Christian Americans who say they believe in the resurrection of Christ:

52

A newly translated Coptic text alleged Judas’ kiss to have been necessitated by Jesus’ ability to shape-shift.

Russia reportedly dropped a series of math texts from a list of recommended curricular books because its illustrations featured too many non-Russian characters. “Gnomes, Snow White,” said a Russian education expert, “these are representatives of a foreign-language culture.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST