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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”