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 $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Article
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Post
 
"Clothes are a bit like eating: you have to dress yourself. You have to eat, and even if you eat pizza all day long, that’s still a choice."
Photograph © G Powell
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch

Amount by which the total wealth of all American households declined last year:

$11,200,000,000,000

A study concluded that commercial fish stocks may be gone by 2050 as a result of overfishing, pollution, and global climate change.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today