I warned about an economic crash years before the 2008 crisis, but the people in power wouldn’t listen. Now I’m seeing serious warning signs in the economy again — and I’m calling on regulators and Congress to act before another crisis costs America’s families their homes, jobs, and savings.
I’ve spent most of my career getting to the bottom of what’s happening to working families in America. And when I saw the seeds of the 2008 crisis growing, I rang the alarm as loud as I could.
In 2003, I called out subprime lenders for tricking unsuspecting families — especially families of color — into refinancing into overpriced subprime mortgages. In 2004 and 2005, I warned that families were getting deeper into debt and hanging on only by borrowing against their homes, which put them in a vulnerable position if costs rose or a family member lost a job. In 2006, I flagged that foreclosure rates were starting to go up, but that the mortgage lenders were still churning out loans because they had passed on the risk of defaults to investors in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Those trends — shady subprime lending, rising household debt, a mortgage market where lenders didn’t bear the risk of their loans — set the stage for the 2008 crisis.
But the people with the power to stop the crisis didn’t listen — not enough of them anyway. Not the banks, not Alan Greenspan or other federal regulators, not Congress. And when the crisis hit in 2008, working families lost it all while the big banks that broke the economy got a fat taxpayer bailout.
When I look at the economy today, I see a lot to worry about again. I see a manufacturing sector in recession. I see a precarious economy that is built on debt — both household debt and corporate debt — and that is vulnerable to shocks. And I see a number of serious shocks on the horizon that could cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble.
The United States could soon become a large-scale Spain or Greece, teetering on the edge of financial ruin.
That’s according to Donald Trump, who painted a very ugly picture of where this country is headed. Trump made the comments during a recent appearance on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
According to Trump, the United States is no longer a rich country. “When you’re not rich, you have to go out and borrow money. We’re borrowing from the Chinese and others. We’re up to $16 trillion in debt.”
He goes on to point out that the downgrade of U.S. debt is inevitable.
“We are going up to $16 trillion [in debt] very soon, and it’s going to be a lot higher than that before he gets finished. When you have [debt] in the $21-$22 trillion, you are talking about a downgrade no matter how you cut it.”
Ballooning debt and a credit downgrade aren’t Trump’s only worries for this country. He says that the official unemployment rate “isn’t a real number” and that the real figure is closer to 15 percent to 16 percent. He even mentioned that some believe the unemployment rate to be as high as 21 percent.
“Right now, frankly, the country isn’t doing well,” Trump added, “Recession may be a nice word.”
While 15 percent to 16 percent unemployment, a looming credit downgrade, and ballooning debt are a bleak outlook for the United States, they are hardly as alarming as the scenario laid out by another economist.
Without earning celebrity status or having his own television show, Robert Wiedemer did something else that grabbed headlines across the country: He accurately predicted the economic collapse that almost sank the United States.
In 2006, Wiedemer and a team of economists foresaw the coming collapse of the U.S. housing market, equity markets, private debt, and consumer spending, and published their findings in the book America’s Bubble Economy.
But Wiedemer’s outlook for the U.S. economy today makes Trump’s observations seem almost optimistic.
Where Trump sees ballooning debt and a credit downgrade, Wiedemer sees much more widespread economic destruction.
In a recent interview for his book Aftershock, Wiedemer says, “The data is clear, 50% unemployment, a 90% stock market drop, and 100% annual inflation . . . starting as soon as next year.”
When the host questioned such wild claims, Wiedemer unapologetically displayed shocking charts backing up his allegations, and then ended his argument with, “You see, the medicine will become the poison.”
The interview has become a wake-up call for those unprepared (or unwilling) to acknowledge an ugly truth: The country’s financial “rescue” devised in Washington has failed miserably.
The blame lies squarely on those whose job it was to avoid the exact situation we find ourselves in, including current Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and former Chairman Ben Bernanke, tasked with preventing financial meltdowns and keeping the nation’s economy strong through monetary .
Trump Warns of Economic Downturn if He Loses Next Year
Our Precarious Economy
Household debt. A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, child care, and education have forced American families to take on more debt than ever before. The student debt load has “more than doubled since the financial crisis.” American credit card debt matches its 2008 peak. Auto loan debt is the highest it has ever been since we started tracking it nearly 20 years ago, and a record 7 million Americans are behind on their auto loans — many of which have similar abusive characteristics as pre-crash subprime mortgages. 71 million American adults — more than 30% of the adults in the country — already have debts in collection. Families may be able to afford these debt payments now, but an increase in interest rates or a slowdown in income could plunge families over a cliff.
Corporate debt. Corporations are also deeply in debt. Leveraged lending — lending to companies that are already seriously in debt — has jumped by 40% since Trump took office, spreading “systemic risk” throughout our financial system. These high-risk loans now make up a quarter of all American business loans, and they look a lot like the pre-2008 subprime mortgages: poorly-underwritten loans with minimal protections that are then packaged and sold to investors. I’ve warned regulators about my concerns — which experts share — but their tepid response shows they haven’t learned the lessons of the last crisis.
Manufacturing recession. Despite Trump’s promises of a manufacturing “renaissance,” the country is now in a manufacturing recession. The Federal Reserve just reported that the manufacturing sector had a second straight quarter of decline, falling below Wall Street’s expectations. And for the first time ever, the average hourly wage for manufacturing workers has dropped below the national average.
Is Trump’s “Great” Economy Nearing A Recession? –
The country’s economic foundation is fragile. A single shock could bring it all down. And the Trump Administration’s reckless behavior is increasing the odds of just such a shock.
The administration may breach the debt ceiling in September, leading to economic turmoil that top economists say would be “more catastrophic” than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Trump’s trade war with China threatens American manufacturing and has already hurt American companies that investors think of as “industry bellwethers,” while feeding an all-time economic slowdown in China that could have dramatic ripple effects on the American economy. And Trump is goading the U.K. toward a no-deal Brexit, which even his own administration acknowledges would have “immediate and significant spillover effects” to our economy.
The financial markets agree that there is a serious risk of downturn in the near future. The U.S. Treasury yield curve — a barometer for market confidence — normally slopes upwards because investors demand higher yields for bonds with longer maturities. But this March, it inverted for the first time since 2007, signaling that investors are so worried that things are going to get worse that they’d rather lock in lower rates for the future today than risk long-term rates going even lower. The curve has inverted before each and every recession in the past half century — with only one false signal.
And experts agree. In a recent survey of nearly 300 business economists, three-quarters expect a recession by the end of 2021 — with more than half thinking it’ll come by the end of 2020.
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