Volker: "We cannot rebuild the economy to the tune of 70 percent consumption or housing booms. It will just break down again,"

CNBC has an interesting news bit about something Volker said. First off, let me give kudos to AmericaBlog for first picking this up. In a meeting at the White House, the famed former Fed chairman basically said we need to rebalance the economy.  That to have a GDP where over half (well 70% give or take) is due to consumption is not sustainable long term.

The alternatives to help bolster future economic growth include boosting exports, applying innovative technology to green issues and improving the nation's infrastructure, Volcker said.

The former Federal Reserve chairman, who now heads the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said Obama understands that "We cannot have so much consumption."

BEA U.S. Metro GDP maps for 2008

The Bureau of Economic Analysis put out a information release showing the GDP slowdowns of U.S. metro areas in 2008.

BEA GDP change for 2008

The dark blue is the biggest increase in GDP, the darker tan is the biggest decrease.

New statistics released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that the slowdown in U.S. economic growth was widespread: 60 percent of metropolitan areas saw economic growth slow down or reverse. Real GDP growth slowed in 220 of the nation’s 366 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in 2008 with downturns in construction, manufacturing, and finance and insurance restraining growth in many metropolitan areas. Growth in real U.S. GDP by metropolitan area slowed from 2.0 percent in 2007 to 0.8 percent in 2008.

Economist Stiglitz wants you to get over your GDP Fetish

We know you go home and stroke that GDP, salivating at the prospect of that magic number turning positive so you can deny all that is wrong with the economy...but Joseph Stiglitz just called you out:

Most governments make a fetish out of it. If you take one message out of our report, make it avoid GDP fetishism. The message is to encourage political leaders away from that.

So many things that are important to individuals are not included in GDP. There needs to be an array of numbers but we need to understand the role of each number. We may not be able to aggregate everything together.

The article cites examples, such as increased consumer debt contributing to GDP but not adding to economic output in reality.

The Greening of America

Andrew Leonard has a short piece over at Salon titled, Chicago School: Bloodied But Unbowed. It's an interesting little piece full of links to previous articles and statements. It also includes this zinger:

.... some of the Chicago economists don't sound a whole lot different from your typical South Carolina Republican. Here's Sam Peltzman, the Ralph and Dorothy Keller distinguished service professor emeritus of economics (italics mine):

"This experience is going to seal the tomb on socialism for all time," he says. "If this can't bring it back, it's hard to think about what could." A burst of Keynesianism should surprise no one, he argues. Of course we hope the government can step in and save the economy. In a crisis people "become infantilized and go back to what's comforting to you as a child."

Study shows economy twice as bad as first reported

It looks like you weren't crazy after all. This Depression really is as bad as it seems.

(Bloomberg) -- The first 12 months of the U.S. recession saw the economy shrink more than twice as much as previously estimated, reflecting even bigger declines in consumer spending and housing, revised figures showed.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis actually went back and revised their economic figures all the way to 1929, although most of the revisions are since 1997. So as not to bore you with too many details, I'll keep this short and sweet and only touch on the highlights.

February 14th, 2008 – Paulson: (the economy) "is fundamentally strong, diverse and resilient."

United States GDP, Q2 2009 in at -1%

I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but this number is actually better than expected news.

The estimates were -1.5%. From the BEA:

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- decreased at an annual rate of 1.0 percent in the second quarter of 2009,
(that is, from the first quarter to the second), according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 6.4 percent.

Ok, now let's go digging into the details.

Firstly, what is GDP?

GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports), or, GDP = C + I + G + (X − M).

So, why was the drop only -1% instead of the -1.5% expected?

Delveraging Anyone?

Economic growth in the U.S. since the mid- 90's has not been organic - it was synthesized with CREDIT.

 From Reuters:U.S. consumers fall behind on loans at record pace


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Soaring U.S. unemployment and a shrinking economy drove delinquencies on credit card debt and home equity loans to all-time highs in the first quarter as a record number of cash-strapped consumers fell behind on their bills.