The Maximum-Strength Remedy (Robert Reich)

by Chris Sturr | November 10, 2008

This is from Talking Points Memo; hat-tip to Ben Collins.

By Robert Reich – November 9, 2008, 2:26PM

This is not the Great Depression of the 1930s, but nor is it turning out to be merely a bad recession of the kind we’ve experienced periodically over the last half century. Call it a Mini Depression. The employment report last Friday shows job losses accelerating, along with the number of Americans working part time who’d rather be and need to be working full time. Retail sales have fallen off a cliff. Stock prices continue to drop. General Motors is on the brink of bankruptcy. The rate of home foreclosures is mounting.

When Barack Obama takes office in January, he will inherit a mess. What to do? (Because I’m an informal economic adviser, I should warn anyone who reads this that it reflects only my thoughts and therefore should not be attributed to him or to anyone else advising him.)

First, understand that the main problem right now is not the supply of credit. Yes, Wall Street is paralyzed at the moment because the bursting of the housing and other asset bubbles means that lenders are fearful that creditors won’t repay loans. But even if credit were flowing, those loans wouldn’t save jobs. Businesses want to borrow now only to remain solvent and keep their creditors at bay. If they fail to do so, and creditors push them into reorganization under bankruptcy, they’ll cut their payrolls, to be sure. But they’re already cutting their payrolls. It’s far from clear they’d cut more jobs under bankruptcy reorganization than they’re already cutting under pressure to avoid bankruptcy and remain solvent.

This means bailing out Wall Street or the auto industry or the insurance industry or the housing industry may at most help satisfy creditors for a time and put off the day of reckoning, but industry bailouts won’t reverse the downward cycle of job losses.

The real problem is on the demand side of the economy.

Read the rest of the article.

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