We have all heard the question repeated a thousand times over the past 6 months… Are we in a recession? If not, are we facing one in the near future?
If you have been following the news for the past week, the answer is apparent – not only are we in a recession, we are facing possibly the largest such event in the past 30 years. The question is no longer whether we are in a recession or not, but how we should respond moving forward.
I feel that it is important to understand the root causes that have led up to the extremely serious problems facing the U.S.’s financial markets. Sure, it is easy to blame the previously ignored, terribly underestimated problems caused by the sub-prime lending meltdown over the past five years. Anytime someone borrows more than they can pay back (whether they knew they were doing so or whether they were intentionally mis-lead), you are going to have a potentially serious problem. But we cannot blame the failure of one of the world’s largest economies on bad mortgages alone.
The real problem is 20+ years of ineffective, inefficient leadership from people more concerned with re-election than with setting effective domestic and foreign policy goals to ensure the nation’s future.
It is clear that the world’s financial markets have become extremely integrated and that the market for goods and services is now almost completely flat. To put things into perspective, close to 90% of everything you buy was produced overseas. Free trade agreements have nearly eliminated trade barriers and restrictions on foreign and multi-national corporations selling products within the U.S. At the same time, organizations such as the European Union have set up numerous barriers to restrict or prohibit U.S. companies from gaining market share in their countries in an attempt to protect manufacturers and producers within their home countries. The blame should not be placed on the European Union, however. The blame lies solely on the U.S. politicians who have allowed the EU to set up such restrictions unchecked. The fact of the matter is that our trade deficit is at an all time high (nearly $6 trillion). The value of the U.S. dollar is rapidly falling, which is may be good news for U.S. business – but it is terrible news for the U.S. consumer, who will have to pay increasingly high costs for the foreign goods that we have become increasingly dependent on.
The government has proposed an economic stimulus package to try to prevent further recession. An important question to ask yourself: How will a one time, $400 tax rebate effect you? I’m not sure if our politicians are really that out-of-touch, but this is 2008. $400 won’t change much of anything for the modern American college student, not to mention a 4 person family. As far as stimulating the economy goes, the $400 rebate may work if it is spent SOLELY on U.S. produced goods and services… but let me direct you back to the fact that 90% of everything we purchase is produced overseas. It seems obvious that $360 of the $400 rebate will be sent overseas and have no effect other than to stimulate the economy in OTHER countries.
A country that does not produce anything, be it goods or services, will have a hard time sustaining economic growth. It seems that our politicians have completely missed this fact. While Hillary and Barack are engaging in heated debates about whether or not Mr. Obama inhaled, the country that our founding fathers fought so hard for is failing. As the election nears, I have not yet heard mention of any of the real issues facing the U.S.
How will we deal with the increasing power of the European Union? How will the emergence of China and India as a global economic force effect the domestic economy as we move forward? How will we deal with real domestic issues, such as the failing social security system? Is it fair to ask the next generation of the American workforce to pay into a system that will not exist when they retire?
One fact is clear and indisputable. Our leaders have failed us. The economy is in shambles. While Bill Clinton was passing free trade agreements and receiving ‘favors’ from White House interns, leaders in other countries were calculating how they could improve the situation for their citizens. While Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama (both ACTIVE U.S. senators) are debating how to provide health care for everyone in the country and focusing on getting elected, our economy is falling apart.
It is time to hold are leaders accountable. It is time to be informed and to know what issues are actually important as we move into the new century. Hopefully our next generation of leaders will take notice.