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Countdown to a Meltdown
November 25, 2007 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Countdown to a Meltdown : long but fascinating speculative retrospective on the causes and impact of the 2009-2016 economic collapse. [via Marshall Brain]
posted by pheideaux (73 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Atlantic publishes these highly speculative articles sometimes, and probably the majority are off the wall. One told us that the Dow Jones average would be 36,000 by now. However, this guy's track record is good. His article at the beginning of the Iraq war, warning about what would happen after the U.S. won, has proven remarkably accurate.
posted by texorama at 10:35 AM on November 25, 2007


I enjoyed reading this article, but it *is* over two years old.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:39 AM on November 25, 2007


Yeah, this article is too old to be useful.
posted by gsteff at 10:42 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Didn't the same author write 'A Canticle for Leibowitz'?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh great. I try to tell myself that my very specific fear that the global economy will suffer a horrendous meltdown in 2009 is supported by nothing but a late-era Arthur C. Clarke novel I read more than 10 years ago and then something like this comes along.

Don't mind me, I'll be under the sofa, whimpering.
posted by Kattullus at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2007


I'm just hoping that 'decoupling' means that we Europeans can escape the American recession that appears to be on the horizon.
posted by athenian at 10:54 AM on November 25, 2007


Why too old to be useful? It's been remarkably prescient so far. The collapse is already starting.
posted by empath at 11:01 AM on November 25, 2007


Hey Kattulus, which Arthur C Clarke novel? The Rama series? The Light of Other Days?
posted by autodidact at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2007


Alas, even the net's pron industry is seeing a falling off! And that is very disturbing.
posted by Postroad at 11:03 AM on November 25, 2007


It's been remarkably prescient so far.

"A few hours after Bush signed the tax-cut bill, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,090, a level it has never reached again.5"

It's currently at 12,880. Doesn't make the footnote look good, either.
posted by cogneuro at 11:09 AM on November 25, 2007


here are some websites that are related to economy

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/
http://housebubble.com/
http://thehousingbubbleblog.com/index.html
http://www.econbrowser.com/
http://calculatedrisk.blogspot.com/
posted by robbyrobs at 11:13 AM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are some days that you wish for zombies.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on November 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


the most off-the-wall thing about it is the idea that somehow people in the U.S. need/want a third party...

but it's the sort of thing that places like the Atlantic like to fantasize about. it's really something like, if only we let the military decided, then the trains would run on time only instead of the military is sensible, middle-of-the-road types like themselves and maybe some bipartisan figures like Joe Lieberman...
posted by geos at 11:23 AM on November 25, 2007


Not only is this bad science fiction that doesn't understand the principles it's using to predict, it's bad science fiction that is two and a half years old and that has already had several of its predictions come false.

Why are you showing this to us now, pheideaux?
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:23 AM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


And there are other days that you wish for puppies.
posted by cmonkey at 11:25 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The two-party system had been in trouble for decades. It was rigid, polarizing, and unrepresentative. The parties were pawns of special interests. The one interest group they neglected was the vast center of the American electorate, which kept seeking split-the-difference policies.

this is the central fantasy of these people, "Unity '16" : that "out there" there is a moral majority of centrists who agree with them...
posted by geos at 11:28 AM on November 25, 2007


"Why are you showing this to us now, pheideaux?"

It's actually a high school sociology project to demonstrate a fairly simple thesis that there are a great many internet users who will pounce by rote on anything more than a week old in the believe that the whole world of internet users is as current as they are, while at the same time assuming that everyone else will have read the piece already and there's no one left who can possibly find it interesting after "all this time", and oh by the way you're a complete jerk for even posting it.

Worked too. Should get an A.
posted by Mike D at 11:30 AM on November 25, 2007 [6 favorites]


"belief", not "believe". I only got a B in English.
posted by Mike D at 11:32 AM on November 25, 2007


Wthout making any asseeement of the accuracy or usefulness of this particular article, I must point out that Fallows is the guy who used to sound warning bells about the coming Japanese hegemony and also predicted that we'd all be flying around by now in point-to-point small aricraft taxis.
posted by twsf at 11:34 AM on November 25, 2007


MetaFilter: There are some days that we wish for zombies.
posted by Avenger at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


The article is strong on what decisions should not have been (are being) made. It's less strong on what decisions should have been made instead, suggesting (for example) that instead of tax cuts the government should have subsidised magnetic levitating trains and aerospace. I'm not sure that government predictions of economic successes have a good track-record, at least not for very advanced economies. (Developing economies might be a different matter...)

Fascinating statistics and references though. Why are right-wing politicians so inclined to increase budget deficits?
posted by alasdair at 11:39 AM on November 25, 2007


I haven't read it yet and am depending on the reactions of the early adopters here to help me decide whether to bother.

And I'm definitely leaning against, based on its bad prediction of the Dow, one of the most visible indicators ("11,090, a level it has never reached again." Of course, this just means we have even further to fall...) and its unrealistic vision of "the vast center of the American electorate", who, as much as they do exist, IMO have been a great enabler for some of the worst economic policies, and who are still seeking a way to "split-the difference" between "Yes" and "No".

But what I'd like to know is, did it predict - or even mention - a credit and/or housing crisis based on subprime mortgages? Because if it missed that, it's pretty much worthless.
posted by wendell at 11:44 AM on November 25, 2007


"Why are you showing this to us now, pheideaux?"

I only came across the article when I read the via link earlier today. I did indeed note the age of the article and the "inaccuracies" that others have mentioned, but I still feel it is interesting as a point of discussion and economic (science?) fiction.
posted by pheideaux at 11:46 AM on November 25, 2007


There are some days that you wish for zombies.

i don't know. zombies have always been social parasites, what with their constant consuming and never adding anything to the economy or social structure. you see them on the way to work, standing by the roadside, chewing whatever and reaching toward you - for a handout, most likely. they're always moaning and groaning, wanting something for nothing. i hate to think of the drain they cause of medicare and social security. there ought to be a hundreds-of-miles-long wall separating out the zombies, but of course the liberal media will label that as racism or unequal treatment. every time i see a zombie i want to shoot it in the head, but no, the democrats have to call that "murder" and try to take away my guns. and you know jon stewart would blow the whole thing out of proportion, misrepresent the facts, chat me down on late-night with Hill-Dog. There are some days i think about packing up, leaving Raccoon City in the dust and heading for Idaho.
posted by mr_book at 11:54 AM on November 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


in the annual meeting of the teams they sponsor at the Rose Bowl.

Classic.

As the dollar headed down, assets denominated in dollars suddenly looked like losers. Most Americans had no choice but to stay in the dollar economy (their houses were priced in dollars, as were their savings and their paychecks), but those who had a choice unloaded their dollar holdings fast.

This scenario basically influences my personal savings philosophy (i.e. keep finances liquid, avoid debt and real estate) If it's a likely scenario, what should I do with my money ... get it out of dollars ASAP?

Garnishee Amendments to the Bankruptcy Act of 2008

Wouldn't surprise me at all, though I don't think it will come that fast.

With gasoline at $6 a gallon ...

Gas will be past $6/gallon quite soon, if the dollar keeps dropping. I was just in France, and gas there converted to about $8/gallon ($1.5euro/litre if someone wants to check math).

the actor who in his three most recent films had captured Americans' idea of how a president should look and sound

Hal Holbrook? I must be missing someone obvious here for the Dems ...

Thanks for the link. James Fallows is a great analyst and a good speculative fiction writer. A lot of the predicions seem valid. Others seem a bit ludicrous and intentionally humorous/snarky (Strykette, Strong America-Strong Americans Act of 2009).

(The DFW-style footnotes would be more useful if the production person linked them correctly.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on November 25, 2007


"As you know, Bob, many significant things have happened in the past 15 years..."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2007


> Why too old to be useful? It's been remarkably prescient so far. The collapse is already starting.

The economy is always collapsing. At the same time, it's also always expanding. Collecting symptoms of one side only is good for an everybody-panic article or soundbite. But these are no more meaningful than examining a body, considering only the processes of catabolism, and going "Holy shit, everything inside you is rotting, you'll be dead in fifteen minutes."
posted by jfuller at 12:10 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Republicans have been chanting their mantra of fiscal responsibility for decades, but they do not back it up. Reagan was terrible, with his 'trickle-down' theory: that if you give rich folks enough money, some of it will make it's way to the poor people. Maybe that's even true, but *most* of what trickles down, stops trickling once it hits the rich folks' bank accounts. He drove our deficit and debt to huge levels.

Bush Senior was basically Reagan Lite, but to be fair, he didn't do much to harm the deficit/debt levels. He was sort of an ambiguous fly-by-night president who more or less followed the Reagan school, but didn't accomplish much.

In the Clinton years, we actually *did* get some fiscal responsibility. I was struck by how odd that was, since that's what conservatives always preach (but haven't actually delivered in ages). Our debt went down, our deficit went down. We even had a projected multi-trillion dollar *surplus* there for a while.

Then boom, Bush Junior. Another 'trickle-down' guy. Make the rich richer and eventually it'll work out and everyone will be happier. What made Bush worse than Reagan was that the Republicans also had control of both houses of Congress, and Bush is allergic to vetoing anything proposed by his fellow Republicans, so porkbarrel spending went crazy.

Whoever our next president is, he or she is gonna have a hell of a job cleaning up the economic messes left by the last three Republican presidents. In fact, I don't think it can be done by just the next president, even if they stay in office for two terms. Recovering from what Bush has done to us is going to take decades. Our children's children will probably still be feeling the effects when *their* children have children.

And sorry to say, but an increase in taxes is pretty much inevitable. We cannot keep spending our grandchildrens' future in order to avoid higher taxes ourselves. We've got a lot of costs coming up (repairing infrastructure, the various wars, buttloads of nuclear power plants and wind farms, healthcare, fixing Social Security, fixing the AMT, etc). We can't keep putting *everything* on credit. As someone who has royally farked his credit rating in the past, I know well the hazards of seriously abusing credit, which is what we've been doing for the last six or so years. That needs to stop, even if it means I gotta pay higher taxes. We're all gonna have to make some sacrifices to get back on track.
posted by jamstigator at 12:11 PM on November 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


This is like that time they predicted the terrorist take over of the Mall of America.
posted by The Straightener at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2007


Apocalypse 2000, or How the Japanese Take Over the World: written in 1987.
posted by alasdair at 12:19 PM on November 25, 2007


We love our doom here on Metafilter.
posted by LarryC at 12:26 PM on November 25, 2007


and then there is this...
posted by janetplanet at 12:32 PM on November 25, 2007


Here's my favorite scare article for today. (NYT link, 9chocolate/9kitten if you get a login page):

How bad could things get? Pretty bad, say many economists. Not so bad that your grandfather’s prescriptions for enduring the Great Depression need dusting off, but nasty enough to force many Americans to get reacquainted with living within their means. That could make life uncomfortable.

Oh my gracious. (shivers)
posted by jfuller at 12:32 PM on November 25, 2007


You know that feeling when you've had too much to drink and the nausea begins as well as the head spins and you tell yourself..."Stupid...stupid...why did I drink so fast dammit? Why didn't I see this coming and avoid it? WHY??" But you couldn't stop because you were too giddy with the situation or nervous and there was an open bar (woohoo) now you'rr in for a spell of vomiting and making a fool of yourself, but you reach that point where you give in to it...to the whole thing...acting like a fool and getting sick all over yourself and somehow it's all such a huge relief to finally admit that you're a total fucking idiot and you deserve to feel like shit for the next 12 to 24 hours.

Well that's my economic theory for what's gonna happen with the United States economy in 2008, 2009 and going forward for a couple of years. A pretty serious hangover from all that's happened these last eight or nine years since the dotcom bubble. It's unorthodox, but I would put it up against anyone's theories. I call it the Buffoon theory of economics. And you know what happens to buffoons right? Yeah, they get rolled for their fucking wallets and left to freeze to death on a park bench. Hello China...(*China kicks buffoon in the kidneys and walks away wearing his new leather jacket, which buffoon bought with China's credit card.*)

Works for me.
posted by Skygazer at 12:36 PM on November 25, 2007


I wish I could more accurately remember exactly which bits of information were obvious and available at the time this article was written.

It's obviously too specific about a lot of things to aim for complete correctness, but it's a fun little thought exercise anyway.

Thanks!
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 12:48 PM on November 25, 2007


My only problem with all of this doom and gloom stuff is that as soon as the dollar starts dropping in value, unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

I'm not sure why this is a problem.
posted by empath at 12:50 PM on November 25, 2007


from janetplanet's link:

"We haven't faced a downturn like this since the Depression," said Bill Gross, chief investment officer of PIMCO, the world's biggest bond fund. .... Its effect on consumption, its effect on future lending attitudes, could bring us close to the zero line in terms of economic growth," he said.

"Close to the zero line in growth" isn't even a recession. We have had several recessions since the Depression, so that first sentence must mean a downturn in his line of business only. Bad times a-comin' for loan sharks, and the extended industries that depend on them. (Very small violin.)


> Well that's my economic theory for what's gonna happen with the United States economy in 2008, 2009
> and going forward for a couple of years. A pretty serious hangover from all that's happened these last
> eight or nine years since the dotcom bubble.

Works for me too. Looking forward to 'em, puritan that I am.
posted by jfuller at 12:52 PM on November 25, 2007


Has anyone noticed that economics, as a "science," is bullshit? Economists' capacity to make predictions that actually come to be is just about equal with that of cab drivers or you or me. The ability of economics to explain why economies rise or fall is about on a par with that of geologists, prior to plate tectonics, to explain why mountain ranges rise or fall.

Why do we give any credence to the whole field? Is it just comforting to think that someone, somewhere has a theoretical construct that explains things? Does it really not matter that the theoretical constructs, en masse, have only a feeble predictive power?

I think we can agree that heedless deficit spending is probably a bad idea. But do any of us really know what the consequences will be? And I don't mean "know" as some unreasonable standard of absolute proof. I mean "within a range of certainty greater than the random walk." I don't, and I don't believe you do either.
posted by argybarg at 12:53 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the article:

Also, though I never thought I'd say it, thank God for the Electoral College. In only two states, Michigan and Maine, are you polling above 50 percent of the total vote—in Michigan because of the unemployment riots, in Maine because that's what they're like.

Go Maine!

My only problem with all of this doom and gloom stuff is that as soon as the dollar starts dropping in value, unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

In order for unemployment to tail off, we'd have to reach parity with the third world countries where the jobs are being siphoned. The big difference is that most of the third world has been the third world for quite some time. They're used to it. They know how to tell if food fished from a garbage can is still edible or not... Most of the U.S. citizenry has forgotten what it means to be really down and out, like, cook-your-pets-for-food, burn-your-money-for-heat down and out. With the amount of guns our population has, a third-world U.S. would more closely resemble Haiti or Somalia than Cuba or Laos.

If any of you are still foolish enough to hold assets in US dollars, I'd recommend shifting your investment portfolio to prisons and moving companies. Those are the only businesses that will be turning a profit in a decade.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:11 PM on November 25, 2007


It's pretty sad that people have gotten so lousy at managing their personal finances that an article which states that individuals may have to start "living within their means" can be classified as a "scare article".
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:15 PM on November 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


C_D: That's complete nonsense. The US has advantages in the labor market that third world countries don't -- Legal and physical infrastructure, educated workforce, etc. We're clearly competing in the world markets even with a grotesquely overvalued dollar, and there isn't really an unemployment problem in the US now.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on November 25, 2007


Well, if individuals start living within their means, then the only people who will have a secure job are farmers, gas station attendents, and doctors. You'll have a million eBay sellers and Sonic carhops scrambling to get one of the 100 job openings at farms, gas stations, and medical practices.
posted by chips ahoy at 1:42 PM on November 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


This passage amazed me...
    "Through much of the Midwest this was a manageable problem: the housing market had gone less berserk to begin with, and, as in the Great Depression, there was a longer-term, more personal relationship between customers and financiers."
How bucolic.
How completely wrong.

The days here in the midwest where your mortgage was held by the small hometown S&L, and you coached your kid's little league team with the Bill, the loan officer are long, long gone. Unless you are a fairly wealthy individual, there is no "personal relationship between customers and financiers" anymore. The few local banks that actually still do mortgages are just branches of the big national or regional chains, with no real local attachment, like everywhere else. And, of course, they sell the mortgages almost as soon as they are written. Make no mistake...giants like Countrywide have their talons as deep into the homeowners of the midwest as anywhere else in the US.

When the shit hits the fan here, there will be no "personal relationship" upon which homeowners can depend or appeal.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:51 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


argybarg, I think that economics gets a bad rap not because it's bullshit, but because practicing economists segregate themselves from the other social sciences. This practice is bizarre to those of us outside of the field, because economics is itself a social science with ideological underpinnings. It can be incredibly difficult to get at the ideologies and assumptions of mainstream economists, because they tend to treat them as irrelevant. This breeds mistrust and to me seems remarkably unhelpful to the growth of the discipline.

Does it really not matter that the theoretical constructs, en masse, have only a feeble predictive power?
There is no branch of economics I know of that tries to predict the future, in spite of how many media-friendly economists are willing to speculate on the subject. Normative economics is about (1) deciding what outcomes are favourable, and (2) trying to influence the present to achieve those results. This is problematic when economics is treated as an empirical science, because it closes off discussion of just what favourable means, and who gets to take part in that discussion.
posted by FissionChips at 1:54 PM on November 25, 2007


...as soon as the dollar starts dropping in value, unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

It has already dropped - a lot. Locally (Central California Coast), we have noticed an upswing in tourism (and in foreign tourists staying longer and spending more devalued dollars), but in the scenic areas where tourists shop, there are still stores closing and more vacancies than usual because of lost business from locals... many of whom are now having to "live within their means".

Interestingly, I have reached a point personally where I have nothing bigger than the Futurama DVD on my own wish list. Which is good, because this time of year tends to align with the paying of some significant annual payments for me, and my Christmases haven't been big deals for years. But this year? I see the massive ads and my eyes glaze over.
posted by wendell at 2:15 PM on November 25, 2007


My only problem with all of this doom and gloom stuff is that as soon as the dollar starts dropping in value, unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

Anyone got stats for foreign tourism to the US? I'd be interested if the figures tally with my gut feeling, which is that, even though the US is really attractive right now from a financial perspective, and even though I'd love to see my friends, there is no way I'm going there right now: I don't like the way I'll be treated at the airports, and I don't really want to give your government any money to attack Iran with. I suspect that many tourists may share one or both of my views.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:32 PM on November 25, 2007


The economy is always collapsing. At the same time, it's also always expanding.

- herbert hoover, 1931

How bucolic.
How completely wrong.


half wrong - he is right in saying that housing prices in the midwest haven't gone berserk - they've increased, but the utterly crazy speculation other parts of the country have seen hasn't been a factor

i can tell you from personal experience that the bankers don't know you and don't give a shit if you can't make your payments anymore - legal notices soon result
posted by pyramid termite at 2:49 PM on November 25, 2007


Black Friday sales were up over 8%!

link
posted by bukvich at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2007


Why are right-wing politicians so inclined to increase budget deficits?
I have several from-the-gut theories about this:
  • They're stupid.
  • They're greedy.
  • They have no foresight.
  • They don't care about long-term consequences.
  • They're evil.
But when I calm myself down and think about it, I wind up concluding that it's a combination of factors.
posted by Flunkie at 3:33 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anyone got stats for foreign tourism to the US?

I think it was the Financial Times last week that noted more Britons touring India than America because the US visa process is such a damn nuisance. Not the stats you're looking for, but apparantly the word on the UK street is that the US shopping bargains aren't necessarily worth it, and in NYCity with its theatre strike....
posted by IndigoJones at 4:06 PM on November 25, 2007


Old article or new, it's been pretty clear for a while to anyone paying attention that the US is in for hard economic times ahead, and is going to drag a lot of the rest of the world down with it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:09 PM on November 25, 2007


Why are right-wing politicians so inclined to increase budget deficits?

I think it's because right-wing politicians generally have a mandate (and, giving them the benefit of the doubt, probably actually want) to cut both sides of the equation: they want to cut taxes and eliminate government programs.

It's just that while cutting taxes is almost always a winner with the electorate, cutting programs is a lot harder and a lot more painful. Thus the tax cuts get passed, but the spending cuts usually don't -- if they're even attempted.

The real problem is the people who want things both ways. They want their Social Security payments, but they also don't want high taxes. Guess what: it doesn't work both ways in the long run.

We need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution pronto, to stop this idiocy. You want a government retirement plan? Pay for it. You want government-funded healthcare? Pay for it. You want to kill brown-skinned people in the desert for cheap thrills on CNN at a few million bucks a hour? Pay for it.

The politicians I really can't stand are the ones who voted for both the tax cuts one day, and prescription drug benefits the next. If you're going to cut taxes, cut spending and be brutal. I can respect that. But don't bullshit around, putting your spending on our kids' tab because you don't have the balls to tell the electorate that it can't happen without a tax hike.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:22 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Anyone got stats for foreign tourism to the US?

International tourism was up 9% in first eight months of 2007, compared to previous year. I can tell you from first-hand observation that New York City is swarming with foreign tourists these days, more than I've ever seen in my 10 years living here.

Not that I think tourism is a very sound basis for the U.S. economy.
posted by stargell at 4:28 PM on November 25, 2007


The US has advantages in the labor market that third world countries don't -- Legal and physical infrastructure, educated workforce, etc.

Um, a sound legal infrastructure is a hindrance to competitive business practices. The best government would be a totalitarian regime that you pay off in kickbacks, in return for which they handle the "disappearance" of union organizers and the quelling of popular unrest at subsistence wages. Guess where most of those are located?

I'll grant you physical infrastructure.

And an educated workforce is the last thing you want for production. R&D needs bright minds, sure, but the actual making of anything should be done by the servile and stupid.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 PM on November 25, 2007


Here's a post from Mish Shedlock from yesterday, with a nice roundup (read the links to other posts of his out from the article), for those who are wanting some more current background.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:33 PM on November 25, 2007


International tourism was up 9% in first eight months of 2007, compared to previous year.

And down 17% from 2001.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:35 PM on November 25, 2007


Anyone got stats for foreign tourism to the US?

I can tell you from Boston I hear so much German (or UK-accented English) as I walk around that if I squint (especially in one of our "older" neighboorhoods) I can easily imagine I'm in London or Hamburg. Looking at the exchange rates, I get the only-half-kidding sense one could vacation here from Europe and return home with more money than one had left with -

...as soon as the dollar starts dropping in value, unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

Starts? The dollar's been dropping fairly steadily for close to a decade. And any of the factors you've noted (that may be true in specific situations and localized areas) pale mightily against the foreign governments that hold trillions of dollars as the "world's standard" and oil-purchasing currency deciding their investment has dropped enough to give the Euro a try - You can see plenty of rumblings on that topic coming out of the latest OPEC get-together.

No single factor of what I'm reading about really scares me per se - that so many of them are happening at once chills me through and through - A long-skidding dollar, $100 a barrel oil, the mortgage fiasco's near-total removal of home equity slush funds from consumer spending, last week's Federal Reserve cash infusion that was the largest since 9/11, etc, etc....
posted by jalexei at 5:51 PM on November 25, 2007


So, if everyone agrees that the US economy is going to be hurting for a while, why the consensus in this AskMe that shifting dollars to Euros was a bad idea?
posted by salvia at 6:02 PM on November 25, 2007


why the consensus in this AskMe that shifting dollars to Euros was a bad idea?

Dunno, because I'm no expert, but I'd guess that if you have a glimmer of a hope that things are going to get better in the next few years before they get much much worse, selling $US to buy euros at $1.50 to 1.00 would be selling at the bottom right now, and if you think it's all going to go kablooie in a major, great-depressiony way, well, there might be better ways to preserve the value of your US cash (though I'm not sure what those might be).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:13 PM on November 25, 2007


Yeah, it's funny. I just found some AskMe comments (this is not the only one) from back in 2005 saying "it's the top, don't buy Euros now" back when it was $1.20 / 1 Euro. But from what I can tell (by reading MSN Money and whatnot), the answer to why so many people advised against it is because there are ways to protect oneself from a falling dollar that also win if the dollar doesn't fall. But probably someone like Pastabagel could come in here and explain circles around me. I still agree it seems obvious that the imbalance with China is liable to balance out sometime, and so I wonder how to come out ahead if that turns out to happen.

Anyway, I thought the article was great. I'm curious about whether US companies as a whole really are behind the curve innovation-wise (if it's possible to find out). I know with car companies, the conservative bent of our government has hurt, in that it allowed GM and such to rely on hummers while Toyota zoomed ahead by recognizing that minimizing oil use and pollution would eventually be a valued feature in a car. I'm curious if this is true in many industries.
posted by salvia at 6:43 PM on November 25, 2007


salvia,

The government runs GM? It's unclear to me what the point is.
posted by rockhopper at 8:15 PM on November 25, 2007


The government sets fuel efficiency standards, made "heroic" efforts to keep oil artificially cheap, and suppressed science on global warming. That's the part it plays. (And of course, yeah, US auto companies didn't have to get lulled into a false sense of security and could've independently moved to innovate, but didn't.)
posted by salvia at 8:34 PM on November 25, 2007


Um, a sound legal infrastructure is a hindrance to competitive business practices. The best government would be a totalitarian regime that you pay off in kickbacks, in return for which they handle the "disappearance" of union organizers and the quelling of popular unrest at subsistence wages. Guess where most of those are located?

If what you say is true, we'd be getting our asses handed to us by Haiti, etc. An educated, organized workforce within a democratic system is not only an ethically desirable thing to have, it's economically desirable. Look at which countries prospered economically in the aftermath of WWII -- hint--it wasn't the totalitarian regimes.
posted by empath at 8:44 PM on November 25, 2007


why the consensus in this AskMe that shifting dollars to Euros was a bad idea?

1. Just because you post on metafilter doesn't mean you have any understanding of currency and financial fluctuations.

2. Moving wealth into a different currency is not necessarily a bad idea, it simply depends on what your personal investment strategy is. When you see OPEC's hedge doing it, Japanese funds, the Saudi's removing their peg from our currency etc...they are all thinking long term. At the current ~1.5 ratio, there's a lot of doomsday speculation which is spiking that ratio and investor confidence can mitigate that discrepancy. Accordingly, someone who dumps their 401k attribution into the Euro, hoping to use the gains on buying a house in 5-7 years could be in for a rude awakening when it levels to 1.1 or 1.2. You'd be better off investing in safer capital gains equities and reaping a 9% an. ROI.

---------

Nevertheless, I think what one needs to draw from the article is that there is a storm brewing which can set off a recessionary period in the US economy by a multitude of factors (foreign policy, energy, terrorism, NEGAM, Eastern currency valuation etc...). However, it isn't a done deal and I don't think the world's economies will sit idly and let the US Market tank. It would have devastating global effects.
posted by stratastar at 9:00 PM on November 25, 2007


autodidact: Hey Kattulus, which Arthur C Clarke novel? The Rama series? The Light of Other Days?

IIRC it's The Ghost from the Grand Banks, but I'm not 100% sure.
posted by Kattullus at 1:03 AM on November 26, 2007


If you like doom porn, read MetaFilter threads from 2002/3 tagged economy/economics.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:48 AM on November 26, 2007


2002/3 tagged economy/economics

yeah, sure is amazing how pumping consumer mortgage debt to growth rates of 13.3%, 14.2%, 13.9%, 12.3%, 10.9% from 2002-2006 [1] can string along any economy.

During those five years, American households ended up going a further FIVE TRILLION dollars into debt. [2]

The bill's coming due, with interest, friend.
posted by panamax at 3:22 AM on November 26, 2007


Anyone got stats for foreign tourism to the US?

Just anecdotal evidence from here in Vermont. Since the drop of the US dollar and the rise of the Canadian dollar, I've noticed a helluva lot more Quebec shoppers in the stores in the Burlington area. I'd say almost twice as many as in years past. Part of this is the strong Canadian dollar as well as the same item in Quebec can cost twice as much. Local news stories say that more British tourism, too. And the ski resorts are seeing lots more foreign tourism (we've had an early snow that let them open earlier).
posted by paddbear at 3:29 AM on November 26, 2007


why the consensus in this AskMe that shifting dollars to Euros was a bad idea?

Because the Asker is usually responding to a downward trend, and is assuming it will continue without looking at anything other than the graph, and that's no way to make financial decisions. Also because converting cash is an expensive transaction, and has to be done twice to get back to USD.
posted by smackfu at 5:19 AM on November 26, 2007


smackfu, your first point is the reason I'm asking, because I think that the Asker was responding not just to some graph but to this chorus, "oh yeah, it's been obvious forever that the US dollar is a house of cards waiting to collapse." So, is that apparent consensus actually really uninformed, like stratastar suggests?
posted by salvia at 1:31 PM on November 26, 2007


“In the Clinton years, we actually *did* get some fiscal responsibility. I was struck by how odd that was, since that's what conservatives always preach”

Well, a lot of what he did raised taxes on the wealthiest minority, Republicans don’t like that much.
But insofar as conservatives, he cut taxes to folks on the lower end and gave small businesses a boost. Nothing to squawk about there.
Er...you think Clinton was a liberal?
This is not to say the Republicans are even in the neighborhood of conservative. They don’t want fiscal responsibility, they want interventionism and big government.
There’s been nothing but growth in government since they took over. Not one bit of federal spending reduced, no reduction in pork-barrel projects (that bridge to nowhere always gets me), no reduction in government agencies or departments (hell, they’ve added them), no slowing of spending bills, no vetoes of spending bills - etc. etc.

People forget Clinton cut spending and introduced fiscal restraint. We don’t need higher taxes, just equitability and accountability. And that kind of conservativism (as opposed to the radicalism being practiced now) would suit the country just fine.
And that’s been the problem for some time, we’ve made a bunch of radical changes not only economic, but political, that any future president and party might not wish to relinquish.
That’s one of the holdups to getting back on track. You gotta wanna.

“Most of the U.S. citizenry has forgotten what it means to be really down and out, like, cook-your-pets-for-food, burn-your-money-for-heat down and out.”

I’m reminded of that bit from “Three Days of the Condor” - Turner finds out about secret CIA plans to invade the middle east *chuckle* and Turner’s all upset about it in that 70s self-righteous way and the company man says it’s simple economics, today it’s oil, tomorrow it’s food or plutonium and what are people going to want the CIA to do for them then?
When they’re running out, no heat in their homes, their kids are cold, their engines stop. “Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!”

Funny thing, he’s right. The two gulf wars proved that. I remember reading the book (Six Days of the Condor) after coming out of a burning oilfield during the first one. Bit more of a before the fact expectation, that is, they will have wanted us to have already gone and gotten it for them, because they’re so afraid of running out of gas they’ll throw away all their morals and ethical standards to prevent it.

People who have never known hunger probably have a greater fear of starvation. I still remember the deep roar and in my mind, that’s the voice of fear in the American people.

“ With the amount of guns our population has, a third-world U.S. would more closely resemble Haiti or Somalia than Cuba or Laos.”

If that happens I’ll be warlord of Chicago. Y’all are welcome to drop by.


“And, of course, they sell the mortgages almost as soon as they are written. Make no mistake...giants like Countrywide have their talons as deep into the homeowners of the midwest as anywhere else in the US.”

*idly wonders how to take out those records*

“I don't like the way I'll be treated at the airports, and I don't really want to give your government any money to attack Iran with. I suspect that many tourists may share one or both of my views.” - posted by Infinite Jest

You mean the foot tapping thing? That’s not for money to attack Iran.
(Srsly, yeah, our government is giving us a bad rap...gonna have to do something about that)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


unemployment in the US is going to go down because of more tourism, more exports and less outsourcing, right?

Tourism plays a trivial role in the US economy, and the rates have been declining even as the dollar has dropped, largely because of extremely intrusive screening techniques that make visitors feel like criminals, not guests.

Exports are all well and good, but it takes time for an economy that has stopped making things to start making them again. Besides that, at the moment we still have a very large trade deficit. It'll take a long, long time for everything to get geared up to reconcile that puppy, and it'll suck hard in the meantime.

That said, employment levels don't seem to be a problem in the first place for now. It's just that the average folks aren't actually making more money each year anymore. They're making almost exactly the same and the cost of living is going up.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 10:25 PM on November 27, 2007


Republicans submitted a balanced budget as part of the Contract with America, which greatly reduced spending. Clinton kept vetoing it in part over a reduction in Medicare rate increase still exceeding twice the rate of inflation, despite himself having offered this as a solution while campaigning for president. Clinton co-opted a lot of Republican planks after the congressional upset so I don't think it's fair to give him credit and fault the Republicans. It would have been a massive political embarrassment to have Republicans sweep congress and pass a balanced budget, so he just vetoed the shit out of whatever the submitted.
posted by erikharmon at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2007


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