The Great Deleveraging Lie
by Jim Quinn
You can’t open a newspaper or watch a business news network without seeing or hearing that consumers and businesses have been de-leveraging. The storyline as portrayed by the mainstream media is that consumers and corporations have seen the light and are paying off debts and living within their means. Austerity has broken out across the land. Bloomberg peddled this line of bull last week:
US Household Debt Shrank 1.5% in the Second Quarter
American households pared their debts last quarter, closing credit card accounts and taking out fewer mortgages as unemployment persisted near a 26-year high, a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed Consumer indebtedness totaled $11.7 trillion at the end of June, a decline of 1.5 percent from the previous three months and down 6.5 percent from its peak in the third quarter of 2008, according to the New York Fed’s first quarterly report on household debt and credit. The report reinforces forecasts for a slowing economy in the second half of 2010 as consumers hold back on spending and rebuild savings.
One has to wonder whether the mainstream media and the clueless pundits on CNBC actually believe the crap they are peddling or whether this is a concerted effort to convince the masses that they have done enough and should start spending. Consumer spending as a percentage of GDP is still above 70%. This is well above the 64% level that was consistent between 1950 and 1980. Consumer spending was entirely propped up by an ever-increasing level of debt. The American economy will never recover until consumer spending drops back to the 64% range that indicates a balanced economic system. For the mathematically challenged on CNBC and in the White House, this means that consumers need to reduce their spending by an additional $850 billion PER YEAR. Great news for the 1.5 million retailers in America.