The warning bells are ringing, and they are ringing loudly. We’ve already allowed bad economics to lead to bad politics. Now, it’s high time to put a stop to the cycle where bad politics undermines an already fragile economy. [Let me explain.] Words: 1085
So says Mohamed A. El-Erian in his new monthly column* at www.foreignpolicy.com.
Lorimer Wilson, editor of www.munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money!) and www.FinancialArticleSummariesToday.com (A site for sore eyes and inquisitive minds) has edited the article below for length and clarity – see Editor’s Note at the bottom of the page. This paragraph must be included in any article re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.
El-Erian goes on to say, in part:
…Not so long ago, we used to think only of developing countries — in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America — as the places where severe economic dissatisfaction fuels populist movements that sweep aside governments and sometimes even overthrow long-established ruling elites. Those were the old days.
An increasing number of Western countries are now also in the grip of a similar dynamic and the longer politicians and policymakers lag the realities on the ground, the greater the likelihood that markets will add to growing global insecurity. Indeed, for the first time in a very long while, our children’s generation may be worse off than ours — economically, financially, politically, even socially. Welcome to The New New Normal.
The United States is not immune from this disturbing phenomenon. The country is now in the midst of a bitterly contested national election, and for the last few years political bickering and brinkmanship have replaced virtually all efforts at the bipartisan compromise that is central to America’s well-being.
The degree of political polarization has been so extreme as to undermine normal governance.
- Passing an annual budget should be a routine task but these days it’s a high-wire political drama where politicians seem more likely to turn off the lights in Washington and walk away than to negotiate, much less compromise…
- Partisan games can get out of control, as illustrated by last year’s debt-ceiling debacle, which threatened a U.S. default and pushed Standard & Poor’s to downgrade America’s sacred AAA sovereign credit rating.
- Already, the upcoming fight over the $607 billion “fiscal cliff” of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect next year — a potentially devastating hit to an already sluggish economy — is starting to roil markets, and rightly so.
Behind this disturbing new political reality in advanced countries is a common cause:
- the government’s inability to deal with the aftermath of a huge wave of excessive debt creation and credit entitlement gone crazy.
With economic growth stagnating and joblessness remaining way too high, this shortfall has now exposed troubling gaps in politics and social policies…[While] politicians and public-sector institutions act ponderously, markets don’t. They move at much faster speeds, anticipating uncertainty and amplifying it.
As The New Normal morphs into The New New Normal, the economic and financial system risks breakages that the political system will be increasingly incapable of mending rapidly enough resulting in:
- more political dysfunction and greater sluggishness in economic growth,
- unacceptably high youth unemployment and long-term joblessness,
- redoubled debt and deficit concerns, and
- worsening inequalities between rich and poor. (If you want to get a sense of how disruptive this could get in the United States if we’re not careful, just look at the turmoil in Europe, where the region’s historical integration project is at risk in ways that not so long ago would have been unthinkable.)
The markets understand the above dynamics well, even as they contribute to it. Companies and investors in Europe and the United States have become much more risk-averse over the past few years. In record numbers, they are refraining from long-term investment activities, preferring instead to hoard cash in large quantities, despite what are historically very low, even negative nominal interest rates. The more this happens, the greater the withdrawal of the oxygen that is central to the vitality of market-based economies. As the economy suffocates, a dysfunctional political sphere, instead of breathing life back into the system, seems content to apportion blame, aggravating a massively unstable economic picture.
No wonder it has become so hard to point to Western countries that have found consensus on the roots of their malaise, let alone come together to undertake the multiyear efforts needed to put their economies back on track. Already, almost half of the eurozone countries have kicked their governments out of office. Traditional political parties and ruling elites are increasingly discredited. Fringe parties are sprouting right and left, eager to dismantle the past but with little agenda for the future.
Will U.S. President Barack Obama be one of the last political leaders left standing when the dust settles in November? With Republican candidate Mitt Romney still struggling to unite his party, let alone capture the country’s imagination, this may well happen….Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that either Obama or Romney has the ability to get at the root of the problem or even understand the severity of the crisis.
The stakes could hardly be much higher, particularly for Europe. While government leaders endlessly schedule meetings in Brussels, investors and companies are exiting the eurozone in ever larger numbers. If things get worse on the continent, few countries anywhere will escape without collateral damage. Ultimately, their ability to bounce back will be determined by how the world’s largest single economy, the United States, navigates the aftermath of its own election cycle.
Sadly, neither Obama nor Romney has yet offered a meaningful, forward-looking economic reform program to address problems such as:
- a malfunctioning labor market,
- unsustainable public finances,
- a broken credit system,
- inadequate infrastructure, and
- a lagging education system.
The risk for the United States, as well as the global economy, is that:
- a lack of vision and political courage could end up leading to even greater economic disappointment and financial instability, bringing with it the social unrest we’ve seen in so many other countries over the past 18 months.
Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party may have somewhat fizzled, but populist anger could return with a vengeance.
The longer America’s interlocking economic and political challenges persist, the greater the number of companies and long-term investors that begin to worry — and, more importantly, act on those fears:
- They hire fewer people and
- invest less in factories and equipment.
- As they increasingly sit on the sidelines, the country’s fate will be left in the hands of tactical position players and short-term traders, further ramping up volatility and reducing future growth and job opportunities – and when day traders and company flippers start running a country’s economy, watch out.
The warning bells are ringing, and they are ringing loudly. We’ve already allowed bad economics to lead to bad politics. Now, it’s high time to put a stop to the cycle where bad politics undermines an already fragile economy.
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*http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/13/why_bad_politics_equals_even_worse_markets?page=0,1 (To access the above article please copy the URL and paste it into your browser.)
Editor’s Note: The above post may have been edited ([ ]), abridged (…), and reformatted (including the title, some sub-titles and bold/italics emphases) for the sake of clarity and brevity to ensure a fast and easy read. The article’s views and conclusions are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original article.
A perfect storm of converging criteria is almost perfectly timed and aligned with the 2012 election cycle. When the moment arrives, the financial earthquake will rapidly demolish the existing highly precarious financial system. Government will stand by helpless, unable to shield itself, much less its vulnerable citizens or private financial institutions from the tsunami of debt and currency destruction. Let me explain. Words: 2055
This post shows JPMorgan’s estimated probabilities on four different fiscal cliff outcomes, conditional on who wins the presidential election in November.
The outcome of the election of 2012 will [only] determine the rate of speed at which we approach the [financial] cliff [because] neither political alternative is willing to change course, to steer away from the cliff. The cliff is so high that whether we go over it at 200 mph (Obama) or whether we merely slip over the edge (Romney), the end result is the same — fatal for the economy and perhaps our entire political system. It is the fall that will kill us. [This article explains why that is going to be the case.] Words: 1135
“The most important issue in this year’s election is the economy. Unfortunately, this topic has now been “politicized,” which means that you can’t talk about it without being instantly cheered or jeered by fans of each respective political team…[the truth of the matter, however, is that] the economy is much more important than this year’s election or either political team….The first step is getting past the political blame-game and understanding what’s wrong…. Let’s go to the charts.”
The ending in the U.S. will be similar to that in Greece. It is assured for the same reasons. The Democrats will lose the 2012 election…and the Republicans will control government for the next two years. Whatever enthusiasm initially exists will dissipate as soon as the polls show how unpopular austerity is. If they try to cut spending, they will suffer the same fate as the European Austerians. [Let me explain.] Words: 1116
When government is wounded, trapped and desperate, it lashes out like a wild animal. Survival in the political class is just as strong a drive as it is in the wilderness. I don’t know how government will lash out, but you are likely to see laws, restrictions and behavior you never imagined….Washington has demonstrated it will “print money” in whatever quantities necessary to stave off a sovereign bankruptcy and a Great Depression but this strategy cannot work forever because existing debt is already too high to be serviced. It is only a matter of time before the U.S. economy succumbs – unless it engineers a ‘soft default’ [which will save it’s ass and get you shafted! Let me explain.] Words: 1394
The implications for the elections in Europe likely portend what will happen in the U.S.. A similar revolt against incumbents [will] …sweep Obama…out of office but… the newcomers will be placed in the position of Sarkozy and other European incumbents. They will have to address the insolvency and eventual liquidity issues in similar fashion which will be viewed here as “austerity” or worse, “cruel and unusual” punishment. [So, how likely is that? Not very, because] politicians, by nature, are not courageous animals. Instead we will see more of the same: half-assed attempts to fool the people into believing that something is being done to solve the problems. [So what does the future hold for America?] Words: 631
This analyst sees the perfect storm of converging criteria almost perfectly timed and aligned with the 2012 election cycle. When the moment arrives, the financial earthquake will rapidly demolish the existing highly precarious financial system. Government will stand by helpless, unable to shield itself, much less its vulnerable citizens or private financial institutions from the tsunami of debt and currency destruction. 2012 is shaping up to be the blockbuster main event of the ongoing financial crisis. Massive amounts of new debt, vast quantities of additional digital dollars and the spark of higher interest rates will set off version 2.0 of the credit-driven financial implosion. Let me explain. Words: 1443