According to Bloomberg Business, the US has the most disappointing economic data in the world. Worse than watching the Redskins in November, worse than the latest A-Braves off-season, as bad as any Oliver Stone Movie from “Natural Born Killers” on. Bloomberg Business advises not to throw in the towel. They think you should go hang yourself with it instead….
This month alone, personal income and spending, manufacturing as measured by the Institute for Supply Management, auto sales, factory orders, and retail sales have all come in a bit weak. Citigroup keeps economic surprise indexes for the world, and its scoreboard shows the U.S. is most disappointing relative to consensus forecasts, with Latin America and Canada next, as of March 12.
This is relatively poor advice. As bad as what Hillary got from the guys who told her that a personal email server for State Department business was a nifty way to dodge professional accountability. I tend to think we will get a recession; this year or next, because the manner in which we handled our last one was so pathetically bad that we sowed the seeds of our own relapse. That would be bad, but to quote Blutarsky from “Animal House,” “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
Well, first of all, even the Common Core AP US History standards still get enough right to tell us it was the Japanese that bombed Pearl Harbor. Secondly, most of the alarm bells being sounded are over things that will bring a reduction in value to the US equities market. Wolf Richter’s particular tornado siren involves the ratio of wholesale inventories to retail sales. He noticed that it had hit the same level that it was at the day after Lehman Brothers collapsed. This correlation led him to lapse into what I believe was incidence of Ludic Fallacy and offer up the following Jeremiad.
When businesses across the country cut orders enough, they contribute to a chain of events that may trigger a business cycle recession. After Lehman collapsed, businesses cut orders so drastically that the supply chain seized. Sales throughout the economy were spiraling down. Inventories were soaring. The inventories-sales ratio went ballistic. And stocks crashed.
This would then trigger further eviscerating buggeration as our financial institutions were left depleted of coping measures after the 2008 crisis and bailout. Pardon me if I’m not buying guns, dogs and real estate far away in the rugged hills of Idaho. This crisis mongering gets it wrong by misdiagnosing how our nation is malfunctioning.
Could it really all hit the fan if the retail number comes in about where I would if I ran the next NASCAR race at Talladega in my Toyota Highlander? I suppose it could. Maybe someday in the coming months I’ll stick my ATM card into the slot and the screen will read back the Family Feud loser response. “Survey says: BWANK! Thanks for playing.” I think that’s unlikely. I also don’t think it’s the worst that could happen.
What would be worse would be a form of Keynesian autopilot where intellect and courage were never rewarded by larger profits and worse yet, failure, sloth and indolence were never adequately punished. It would sort of be a permanent mediocrity here nobody did anything that had real purpose or meaning. Determinism would be completely out of your hands. You, yes you; could make a difference. But then they’d have to kick your butt good and hard for it. So Recessions, as hard and painful as they are when we get caught on the fecal end of one, serve a vital purpose. They separate wisdom from foolishness through the manifestation of adverse consequence.
In conclusion, if a lot of number-crunchers such as Wolf Richter and Doug Short have this stuff right, we could catch some righteous economic hell in the next six or so months. It will require a patience and a stoic belief that it will one day get better. The good news is that the stoicism embodied in this belief is usually right over a long enough time horizon. And besides, if you are reading this post, you are statistically unlikely to be one of the 30% of Baby Boomers who have less than $100,000 of life savings.