Nel's New Day

March 3, 2020

DDT’s Economy before Covid-19

As the new coronavirus, covid-19, continues its creep across the world, the economy—which had many cracks before the health crisis—may take a bit hit.

Financial markets: Last week, U.S. stocks’ drop of at least 10 percent had not been seen since 2008 in the great recession at the end of George W. Bush’s second term. Damage is being done to retirement accounts, especially if interest rates are again cut, and consumer confidence. Stocks went up this week but only because governments and banks promised to take care of the problem.

Retail: Reduction in discretionary spending influences an area providing for over two-thirds of U.S. economic growth. A covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. would also drive people to online outlets, threatening jobs in a sector showing no employment growth in 2019.

Travel and hospitality: Cancelation of conferences and meetings have already led to a drastic decline in global travel and tourism, hurting airlines, lodging, casinos, restaurants, concert/sports venues, and other businesses with close contact.

Technology: Factory shutdowns in China and neighboring countries already restricted supply of technology products and parts, necessary for huge companies such as Apple and Microsoft. Almost 80 percent of small and medium-sized industrial plants in China are still closed.

Automobiles: Lack of parts from China hurts the U.S. industry already suffering from DDT’s tariffs.

For the one argument to vote for him, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) bragged about creating the “best economy” people have ever known—low unemployment rate, lies about new jobs, and the high stock market. Even before the onslaught of covid-19, DDT’s economy was going downhill. He pushed through the tax cuts with promises for a GDP up to six percent but averaged $1 trillion deficit per year, twice President Obama’s last year. He hasn’t even hit three percent GDP growth for a year: 2.3 percent last year, 2.9 percent in 2018, and 2.4 percent his first year. President Obama hit over 4 percent in four different quarters. Goldman Sachs now estimates GDP for the first quarter of 2020 at 1.2 percent. Ed Hyman, Evercore ISI Chairman and widely followed economist on Wall Street, predicts 0.0 percent GDP for both second and third quarters of 2020. 

An update from early November showing DDT’s growing economy problems:

  • Private-sector investment had negative growth for most of 2019 as big business stores profits offshore and buys stocks in their companies.
  • Job growth of almost 2.1 million in 2019 was below that of 2018 and among the worst since 2011 when the country was crawling out of a big recession. DDT’s best year of 2018, with 2.31 million new jobs, was still under jobs gains during any of Obama’s last three years.
  • About 1 in 7 U.S. men between 25 and 54 (over 14 percent) aren’t employed, higher than the year before the economic disaster in 2007. Many of them don’t appear in unemployment statistics because they gave up looking for work. Most do not have college degrees and live in a handful of rural, low-income regions across the country.
  • Median household income rose only $1,400 during DDT’s first two years, compared to the $4,810 increase during President Obama’s last two years.
  • Wage growth dropped in states that didn’t have minimum-wage increases, and median wage for “blue collar” workers has gone down 12.3 percent since 1979. The $7.25 minimum wage, established 11 years ago, just shrank to $6.05 after adjusted for inflation.  U.S. households are poorer than before the 2007 financial crisis.
  • The median wage of a full-time male worker is still more than three percent below what it was 40 years ago. DDT’s change in the overtime rule means that eight million workers will receive lower wages, $1.4 billion less than under the 2016 rule.
  • The typical US male worker needs one additional week every year to support a family of four compared to the 30 weeks in 1985 that gave him the money. Now a man needs $54,441 for expenditures compared to the $13,227 required in 1985. Women are worse off, requiring 45 weeks in 1985 compared to 66 weeks in 2018.
  • Median household income in Democratic districts is $61,000, compared with $53,000 for Republicans.
  • Conservative policies are responsible for millennials’ huge college debt, stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, climate change problems, and massive federal deficits.
  • Nine of the last ten recessions began under Republicans: 1953, 1958, 1960, 1969, 1973, 1981, 1990, 2001, and 2007. The only Democratic one was in 1980, resulting from the oil crisis in the late 1970s.
  • In the employment figures that DDT praises, 57 million workers, one-third of all employed people, have gig economy jobs without any benefits such as health insurance. People in those jobs, as well as other ones that don’t provide sick leave, are likely to spread covid-19 by working while sick and having contact with a large number of people.  
  • In two years, the uninsured rate increased from 10.9 percent to 13.7 percent, and life expectancy dropped in the first two years after DDT was inaugurated—in 2017 the highest rate of midlife mortality since World War II.
  • Almost 60 percent of people in the U.S. cannot cover an emergency expense of $1,000 such as a car repair
  • In a Monmouth University poll, only 12 percent of people in the U.S. said their families had “benefited a great deal” from recent economic growth, and only 18 percent said that middle-class families had benefited a lot from Trump’s economic policies. 

DDT wants people to overlook his soliciting foreign interference to get elected, incessantly lying, obstructing justice, and destroying the lives of people through his domestic and foreign policies. His demand for votes based on a continuation of Obama’s economy ignores the indicators of a coming recession.

  • The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index dropped to 47.2, its lowest level since June 2009. Unemployment has increased in Ohio and Pennsylvania for the past six months, and Michigan and Wisconsin manufacturing unemployment has eroded.
  • Manufacturing cut 12,000 jobs in December; mining shed 8,000; and transportation and warehousing dumped 10,000. US Steel shuttered its Detroit plant and laid off 1,545 workers. Two hundred workers lost their jobs earlier last year.
  • Shipment volume dropped 9.4 percent in January 2020 compared to an already weak January the previous year. The decrease was for the 14th month and the steepest since October 2009. In December, the Celadon Group, with 3,000 drivers and 2,700 tractors, became the largest truckload carrier to file for bankruptcy, and barge operator American Commercial Lines, with 3,500 barges mostly the Mississippi River, declared bankruptcy in January. Two of the largest US railroads, CSX and Union Pacific, dropped revenues and reported massive layoffs from weak transportation.
  • Car sales have declined since 2016 to below their level in 2000, and new-vehicle registration in California, the biggest U.S. market, dropped 5.5 percent in 2019. New-vehicle sales have dropped to
  • Five percent of auto loans are delinquent.
  • Credit card delinquencies increased in 2019 to 8.36 percent. Subprime credit-card delinquency rates are at an all-time high.
  • One in nine borrowers of student debt, now over $1.5 trillion, were reported 90+ days delinquent or in default in 2019. This figure might be understated because half of student loans aren’t in the repayment cycle because they are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance. Delinquency rates are projected to be about twice as high when those loans enter the repayment cycle.
  • The size of the stock market relative to the size of the economy is at its highest level ever, showing that it’s overvalued. Because of stock over-evaluation, asset managers expect a recession this year or in 2021.
  • Capital spending by S&P 500 companies grew less than 1 percent in the third quarter and would have fallen without Apple and Amazon because uncertain business environment causes companies to cut back on spending.

GOP Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley encouraged DDT and his economists, including Peter Navarro, to read about parallels to the booming 1920s in Dan Henninger’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Dan Henninger. The economic growth, when Congress cut taxes three times in a time of huge income inequality, was followed by the financial crash and almost a decade of deep fiscal depression. Herbert Hoover, elected in 1928, loved tariffs that damaged an already declining economy and signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff law in 1930, a policy that severely restricted trade and strained the economy by raising import taxes.

After a cash shortage in financial institutions last September, the Federal Reserve flooded the market with overnight “repos,” repurchase operations by purchasing $60 billion a month in short-term Treasury bills. Banks buy them overnight and sell them back the next day at a higher price to meet federal requirements for minimum reserves. 

The economy would have shown greater signs of tanking without the Federal Reserve acting as if the U.S. were in a recession instead of a sound economy. The agency practiced quantitative easing, buying assets such as bonds. The last time the government did this to get out of the great recession, the Fed stopped the practice as soon as the economy recovered. Now, the Fed is purchasing bonds at a $60 billion per month–$720 billion a year or about three-fourths of a trillion dollars—more debt for future generations. This system moves more wealth to the top, away from most people.

The Fed has also cut interest rates several times since DDT was inaugurated, most recently the 0.5 percent this morning which dropped the rate to below 1.25 percent—the largest cut since 2008. The purpose is to encourage people to spend, an unlikely behavior during a health crisis.

A recent Pew research poll found that “[s]even-in-10 U.S. adults say the economic system in their country unfairly favors powerful interests.” William D. Cohan wrote that covid-19 gave investors the reason for grabbing their profits in a shaky economy and DDT an excuse to blame the stock market on something other than his economic policies that “widened the gulf between the rich and poor” to the biggest divide since the Gilded Age of 150 years ago.   

November 3, 2019

DDT Owns This Economy

Once again, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got his way with the Federal Reserve: it dropped interest rates by another quarter point at a time when the economy is supposedly strong. The reduction of the interest rate by three-fourths of a percent in just three months at a time when the country is not in an economic crisis is not only almost unheard of but also a source of more disaster. Interest rates are lowered to fight a recession, and the United States has lost the ability to do that by dropping the rates.

The good news, other than a rising stock market, is unemployment at a half-century low and inflation at its two-percent target. The bad news is the trade wars causing stock market volatility, investment insecurity, farm losses, shrinking manufacturing jobs, and rising consumer prices as well as slowing global economy. Spending on both structures and equipment was deeply negative from July through September, Commerce reported, and manufacturing is currently in a technical recession, at its lowest since the 2007-2009 recession. 

Eleven years ago, the Fed rate was .25 percent, and the cheap money promoted a borrowing frenzy. By now U.S. companies have borrowed $15.5 trillion, two thirds of the U.S. GDP, and used the money to increase stock prices, buybacks, and acquisitions. Any rise in interest rates will cause a financial crisis, similar to that 11 years ago. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), half of corporate debt outside small businesses is high risk or junk rated with a higher chance of default than investment grade debt. Even worse, $660 billion of leveraged debt is in collateralized loan obligations sold to investors and financial situations, threatening a rise in delinquencies and defaults. Selling this debt will accelerate a downward spiral.

The Fed’s meeting this past week, the second in three weeks, was to address the repo (repurchase agreement operations) market’s problems. In the repo market, banks, funds, and other large companies borrow money for a day and use short-term government bonds as collateral: Fed plan to buy $60 billion a month of these bonds through April 2020. After the last recession, the Fed bought long-term bonds and mortgage-backed bonds to prevent a worse economic collapse. The current repos are intended to make it appear that banks are complying with regulations.

Signs of the U.S. weakening economy:

U.S. business hiring has fallen to a seven-year low, and employer are not increasing wages because of slower growth of sales and profits. 

Consumer confidence in the United States has declined for three months in a row. 

Defaults on “subprime” auto loans are at the fastest pace since 2008. 

The percentage of “subprime” auto loans at least 60 days delinquent is now higher than at any time during the last recession. 

Retail vacancies at U.S. shopping malls are at the highest level since the last recession, up to almost ten percent. 

The Cass Freight Index has fallen for ten straight months

U.S. rail carload volumes are at the lowest level in three years

September orders for Class 8 heavy duty trucks were down 71 percent.  

September home sales in the United States declined by another 2.2 percent

New home prices have fallen to the lowest level in almost three years and the same median price as in 2014. 

Forty-four percent of people in the U.S. report that they don’t make enough money to cover their monthly expenses

In a recent survey, over two-thirds of all U.S. households, 69 percent, are taking steps to prepare for a recession. Recession fears can cause consumers to spend less, which can exacerbate the possibility of a recession.

September was the worst month for U.S. manufacturing in a decade as manufacturers laid off employees, and October was even worse.

 In September, 4,200 truck drivers lost their jobs after 5,100 were dropped in August while hundreds of trucking companies are going bankrupt.

Other figures from last spring that haven’t improved include continuing jobless claims at the fastest pace in ten years, retail layoffs at 92 percent higher than the year before, and economic numbers are at the worst start since 2008.  

More problems with the economy from Robert Reich:

Wages are still almost static with only $2,000 more than in 1979—even after DDT promised everyone $4,000 in tax cuts last year.

The low unemployment rate comes from people giving up searches for jobs; the labor-force participation rate is the lowest since the late 1970s.

Almost 4 million people are stuck in part-time jobs and can’t find full-time jobs. Their lack of rights and benefits adds to increased economic insecurity.  

More college graduates are overqualified for their current jobs with ten percent underemployed, much higher than 20 years ago, while college costs have skyrocketed and left students in massive debt.

Health care increases with average family premiums up 55 percent since 2008, three times more than inflation. Prescription drug prices went up 11 percent in the first half of 2019.

Almost 39 million American households pay more than they can afford on housing, and over 25 percent of the renters spend over half their income on housing.  

Consumer debt, excluding mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion, the highest ever even after adjusting for inflation.

With the DDT-GOP tax cut, 83 percent of the gains go to the wealthiest one percent of people in the U.S.

The bottom half of all U.S. households, as measured by wealth, still have 32 percent less wealth, adjusted for inflation, than in 2003, and the top one percent has more than twice as much.

The federal government is also permitting the expansion of risky mortgages. The almost $7 trillion in mortgage-related debt by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA is one-third more than before the housing crisis over a decade ago, and a large increase in loan defaults can cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. A growing number of homeowners face debt payments almost half their monthly income, and about 30 percent of Fannie Mae guaranteed loans last year were higher than this level, up 14 percent from 2016. At 57-percent loans over the high-risk level, FHA is up in this category by 38 percent from two years ago.  Two Freddie Mac officials said that they had been pushed into loans with a higher risk of default. DDT’s officials are trying to privatize Fannie and Freddie which can disrupt the housing market and make buying homes more expensive. At this time, most of the loans are packaged into securities and sold to investors. In 2017, FHA guaranteed 10.9 percent of all single-family mortgage debt, more than half to borrowers with extremely high levels of debt and over triple the rate ten years earlier at the beginning of the recession. 

Another sign that the U.S. is moving toward a recession is the slow growth of the nation’s economy, 1.9 percent annualized pace in the most recent quarter and over one-third less than the 3 percent that DDT promised from his 2017 tax law. Consumer spending has continued, but business investment contracted for six straight months, falling 3 percent in the third quarter, the biggest drop since 2015. Spending on both structures and equipment was deeply negative from July through September, and manufacturing is currently in a technical recession. Economic uncertainty has led to this drop in investment.

DDT promised to erase the federal debt in eight years, but the 2019 fiscal year deficit hit $984 billion—just $16 billion short of $1 trillion, a 26-percent increase from the previous year and up 50 percent since he was inaugurated. The loss comes from DDT’s massive spending increases, especially for the military and a border wall, and tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Bush’s bad policies, wars, and tax cuts led to a ballooning of the debt which President Obama curbed before DDT’s election. DDT’s shortfall is the same as for 2012 when unemployment was twice the current rate and the economy was coming out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression over 80 years ago. 

The debt-to-GDP ratio of 105 percent for the last quarter, up from last year and the first year to be this high since 1945, the end of World War II. That figure comes from the $22.719 trillion U.S. debt as of September 30, 2019 divided by the $21.526 trillion nominal GDP. The World Bank states that any debt greater than 77 percent is past the “tipping point,” when it can’t be repaid. DDT promised to cut the debt, but instead of vastly increased it by giving trillions of dollars to the wealthy and corporations. With these disasters, DDT plans another tax cut to enhance his reelection campaign.

DDT plans to use this economy for his reelection campaigning.

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