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Four Deformations of the Apocalypse

Here’s an interesting article in the NY Times that has been making the internet rounds.  David Stockman writes about how the Republican party destroyed the American economy. – Ilene 

Barry Ritholtz made this comment in summarizing the article: 

In short, the party became more focused on Politics than Policy.

I bring this up as an intro to David Stockman’s brutal critique of Republican fiscal policy. Stockman was the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. His NYT OpEd — subhed: How the GOP Destroyed the US economy — perfectly summarizes the most legitimate critiques of decades of GOP economic policy.

I can sum it up thusly: Whereas the Democrats have no economic policy, the Republicans have a very bad one.

Four Deformations of the Apocalypse

money printing By DAVID STOCKMAN, NY Times 

Excerpts: 

This approach has not simply made a mockery of traditional party ideals. It has also led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy. More specifically, the new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one.

The first of these started when the Nixon administration defaulted on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world. Now, since we have lived beyond our means as a nation for nearly 40 years, our cumulative current-account deficit — the combined shortfall on our trade in goods, services and income — has reached nearly $8 trillion. That’s borrowed prosperity on an epic scale.

[...]

The second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. 

[...]

The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation. As a result, the combined assets of conventional banks and the so-called shadow banking system (including investment banks and finance companies) grew from a mere $500 billion in 1970 to $30 trillion by September 2008.

But the trillion-dollar conglomerates that inhabit this new financial world are not free enterprises. They are rather wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives. They could never have survived, much less thrived, if their deposits had not been government-guaranteed and if they hadn’t been able to obtain virtually free money from the Fed’s discount window to cover their bad bets.

The fourth destructive change has been the hollowing out of the larger American economy. Having lived beyond our means for decades by borrowing heavily from abroad, we have steadily sent jobs and production offshore…

David Stockman, a director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, is working on a book about the financial crisis.

Artwork credit: Jr. Deputy Accountant 


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