Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Lost Decade

There is no shortage of news items crossing my desk here in the waning days of the worst decade in our history. The shadow government nominated and elected an inarticulate third rate Texas governor and a paranoid chicken hawk vice president who then chose a coterie of like minded neo conservative ideologues who launched the last imperial war with an ill thought out invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, The stated goal in Bush's words was to establish a stable and permanent democracy, The transparently obvious goal was to control access to the vast oil and gas fields of the region. Almost ten years on, the US remains mired in what conservatively could be described as a debacle which has no end.
This was the decade that the shadow government deregulated the banks who then ran amok through the world spreading their newly devised financial instruments which largely involved the securitization of mortgage assets and the creation of an unregulated and unseen derivatives market. The failure of this business model collapsed the banking system. The same shadow government of private bankers within the Federal Reserve and Treasury then deftly transferred these vast losses to the taxpayer. During this same decade the Chair of the Fed Alan Greenspan inflated a vast asset bubble in real estate and other assets . Credit was extended to anyone with a pulse and consumer, corporate, state,local, municipal, and Federal(including GSEs) debt levels soared such that that debt is now 557% of GDP according to Forbes Magazine.( Current GDP is around $14 Trillion.). If you add in the various entitlement programs, the number soars to 840%. There has been no attempt to address this mountain of debt either by the Bush or Obama administrations.
The US stock market turned in the worst decade in the history of the United States which has had a stock market of sorts since about the 1820's. The worst decade, even worse than all the other financial panics including the decade of the Great Depression. The S&P average yielded -.0.5% annual return for the decade. The Dow hit 10,000 in 1999, about where it is now.
I include this graph of inflation and the Dow during the decade of the Great Depression. You can see the steep cliff dive descent in 1929 followed by a surprising spike of about 60% in 1930, a so called bear market rally. My contention is that we are in a similar bear market rally and I think the next moves are down mirroring the graph shown. All the chess pieces of fiscal and political incompetence are in place and I see no way to avoid the next crash. I have begun to sell off what stocks I own in my dwindling personal retirement position and I have urged everyone I know to do the same. 2010 looks to be an interesting year.

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